Grandpa Don’s Bugachi (Teriyaki Beef Skewers)

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Just over a week ago, Karen posted a recipe that started out with a small tribute to a great man who I never got the chance to meet…but I still feel blessed to experience his presence every time we have a gathering with her family.  Her Grandpa Don’s legacy lives on in some way with every member of her immediate and extended family (and everyone else who knew him as well), and it is always fun to hear the stories told of his sense of humor, adventurous spirit, and masterful culinary skills (and on more than one occasion, it seems, he would combine all three).

I think this recipe may be one such combination.  I emphasize “think” because I can’t really get a good straight answer out of anyone…no one seems to know exactly where the recipe, or the name, comes from (there is even debate over what the actual name is).  Given Don’s reputation, it would not surprise me a bit if the word was one he made up entirely…and possibly even changed up now and again to throw everyone off.  Of course, trying out web searches for about every phonetic spelling variation of every version of the name I have for this recipe has come up with nothing but a link to a clothing line that is spelled similar.  Somehow, I can picture Grandpa Don chuckling somewhere right now as I’m writing.  Perhaps it’s fitting that this is posted on the first day of April…

The final bit I’ll throw out about this recipe is that it isn’t exactly the version that was originally given to me years ago when I had been around long enough (and proven my own culinary skills within the Carpenter circles) to be trusted with it.  I’ve been told that Don cooked a lot like I do – often “improvising” with little (or sometimes large) additions or ommissions off the cuff to change things up a bit.  So while the name may be entirely fiction, and this version takes a little creative departure from the original, there is something I am certain about – Don’s spirit is very much still a part of our family, and I am honored to share this with our readers.

Gather Up:

  • 3 lbs round steak or other economy cut of grass-fed beef, sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ x 3/4″ wide strips
  • 1 large leek, pale green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2~3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 3/4 cup tamari
  • 1/2 cup raw local honey
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Start out cutting the beef into long strips.  I like to make mine a bit thicker – using a 3/4″ thick steak and cutting it 3/8″ to 1/2″ wide in long pieces.  You may prefer to cut the steak thinner, especially if using flank steak or London broil.  Once all the meat is cut, you can set it aside for a little bit while we move on.

Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk vigorously to ensure the honey is fully dissolved, then transfer the mixture into a gallon-sized freezer bag.  Add the meat to the bag and toss it around to coat everything well.  Press as much air out as possible, then seal it up and let sit in the fridge (we put it inside of a rimmed dish in case the bag gets poked or bumped).  Marinade overnight to 24 hours.

The next day, prepare the bugachi by threading the meat onto bamboo skewers.  Stack them all up and let come to room temperature while you warm the grill up to medium-high heat (I went for 400 on the pellet grill).

Once the grill is hot, arrange the skewers over the grate and cook for about 4 to 7 minutes per side (depending on how indirect your heat is and how thick your pieces are).  For me, at 400 degrees indirect with thicker pieces, a total of 14 minutes on the grill is perfect.  Gather the finished ones back up on a serving tray and serve warm – provided of course that you can swat away the hovering crowd long enough to actually gather them without having them stolen right off the grill (seriously …good luck with that)!

There you have it – Grandpa Don’s Bugachi, done Purely Primal style.


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