Portland chef Vitaly Paley makes these luscious skewers, an iconic food in the Republic of Georgia, for his Soviet-style pop-up restaurant, DaNet. For the most tender skewers, he recommends buying a boneless leg of lamb and cutting it up, rather than using lamb "stew meat" (which can come from the more gristly shoulder). Or use lamb loin, which is more expensive but has less fat and sinew. You'll need 8 (9 in.) metal skewers for this recipe.
Our suggested wine pairing, for the lamb skewers served with wild plum sauce: Mark Ryan 2014 "Wild Eyed" Syrah (Red Mountain; $48).
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek*
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus cilantro sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
About 1 tsp. kosher salt
3 to 3 1/2 lbs. leg of lamb, fat and sinew trimmed, meat cut into 1 1/2- to 2-in. cubes (to yield about 2 1/2 lbs.)
Put onion, garlic, spices, herbs, vinegar, and salt in a food processor and process into a smooth, thickish marinade.
In a bowl, combine lamb and marinade; turn to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill overnight.
Preheat a grill until very hot (550° to 600°). Slide about 4 lamb cubes onto each skewer, shaking off excess marinade. Oil grill well with a wad of oiled paper towels, then grill skewers (covered if using gas), turning once halfway through, until medium rare (cut to test), 6 to 10 minutes; they will continue to cook to medium off the heat. Season with salt.
Lay skewers on a platter, top with cilantro sprigs, and serve with plum sauce.
*Find fenugreek seeds in the spice aisle; grind in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder.
DaNet, Portland, Oregon
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