NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab commonly found in Russia and the former Soviet republics. It was likely brought to Moscow from Central Asia in the 19th century. Today, it’s a popular summer food cooked over an open fire at social gatherings. It’s traditionally prepared with lamb, but chicken, pork, and beef variations are becoming increasingly prominent. With summer in full swing throughout the country right now, I thought it would be a great time to share this tasty dish!
There are a few tricks that I came up with when developing this recipe that I think are pretty sweet. While the dish is traditionally marinated in either vinegar or lemon juice, I found that the combination of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar gives the meat a tangy and subtly sweet flavor. Secondly, leaving the salt out of the marinade and saving it for the last stage of the recipe provides for a really great complementary texture to the tender and juicy meat.
1/2 lamb shoulder (2 lbs)
2 medium onions, blended
6 cloves garlic, blended
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon (2 tsp)
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt
I had my eye on this beautifully-marbled lamb shoulder from Lava Lake Lamb for a while now, and it was the perfect cut of meat for this dish. It’s such a versatile cut of meat that I actually only used half of it (two of its four pounds) so that I could save the rest for another creation!
Don’t forget that I’m giving away a $100 Lava Lake Lamb gift card this week; it’s easy to enter! See here for details.
Cut the lamb into 2″ chunks, and place in a ziploc bag.
In a blender or food processor, blend the onion, garlic, and water. Combine with the bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, pepper, oregano, and lemon juice and pour everything into the ziploc bag. Marinate in the fridge for four hours.
After four hours, skewer the lamb pieces (if using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes first) and warm up your grill on med/high heat.
Grill on direct heat, rotating the skewers with a pair of tongs every few minutes, and sprinkle the salt over the skewers as they cook.
When you have a hard time looking at the skewers because they are so delicious, remove them from the grill. Should take about 10 minutes altogether.
Let the shashlik rest for five minutes and serve. This dish is commonly served outdoors in Russia, with fresh, lightly-salted vegetables like tomato, mushrooms, or cucumbers as its only accompaniment. Enjoy!