It's been on my mind for a long time to try to recreate the brochettes I used to get after school when I was living in the Ivory Coast circa 1994. The little skewers of meat on a grill-toasted baguette were killer. The flavors of cumin and red pepper have stuck with me to this day.
The vendor would grill as many skinny kebabs as we ordered in no time at all. As meat cooked, he'd toast a piece of baguette right on the grill, then brush on some cooking oil from a can. Lastly, he'd stack our brochettes on the bread, close it up tight in his hand, and pull out the wooden skewers one by one. Then he'd hand me my sandwich: a flaky, crispy baguette, flavorful, spicy bites of beef, a swirl of oil and spices...it was everything my aspiring-foodie adolescent-self wanted. I haven't forgotten the textures and tastes since I was thirteen.
At school, we could get big, meaty beef brochettes on a metal skewer atop a plate of attieke, or "cassava couscous". The attieke at school was topped with a tomato and onion salad. I would literally steal change from my parents' drawers and beg loans from my friends so I could have attieke and a brochette for lunch instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I used this Westernized recipe for the beef brochettes because it's not so easy to find North African/Middle Eastern ingredients here in Taiwan...not that I've had much cause look for them before now. I wanted to make this recipe right away, so I went with what I know.
I also made the yogurt dipping sauce, and it was delicious on the beef kebabs, but I didn't put it on the couscous because it wasn't what I remembered from my days in Abidjan.
I found this recipe for attieke that looked very much like what I remembered eating under the paillote all those years ago, but I substituted couscous because I just don't know where I would find attieke here. If you want to try it, but you don't have a store that sells attieke near you, you can find it online in the US. I also substituted mushroom dark soy sauce for Maggi at the last minute because I was halfway through my preparations when I realized I didn't have any Maggi. Some people don't like using Maggi because it's processed, anyway, and I'm not sure mushroom dark soy sauce would be a better option for them. Maggi provides the salt and a lot of umami flavor, so you'll want to have something salty and savory in there. Maybe it's time to try some umami paste.
But really, since I made these beef brochettes au pain, I didn't even need a salad–particularly one made with tiny noodles. If you want a lighter meal, just choose either the couscous salad or the baguettes, but not both.
Overall, this was a delicious meal. I made it by myself just to try out the recipe on our tabletop grill, but I would happily cook these brochettes and the "attieke" again with friends and family. The tabletop grill worked out well. I think they'd be great next time we're having a potluck barbecue, too.
In terms of recreating my first foodie experiences in Abidjan, I still have some work to do. I'm going to try to make beef brochettes again with smaller pieces of meat and I'm going to use a dry rub with salt and cumin instead of a marinade. I'll post that version when I make it.
Suggestion: Make the salad first and let it rest in the fridge until you're ready to cook and eat the beef.
You can use couscous as a substitute for the traditional side of attieke if you can't find it.
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.