Grilled Yogurt-marinated Chicken Shawarma
After returning from a spectacular trip to Israel, I was craving shawarma. It was shortly after that I found this recipe from Oleana, a Mediterranean restaurant, in Cambridge. With a few modifications, this has become a wonderful addition to our weekday meals. Shawarma is a Levantine Arab meat preparation, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef or mixed meats are typically placed on a vertical spit in restaurants. The home modification requires threading the chicken on skewers and cooking on a grill or a cast-iron grill pan over medium high heat. Typically shawarma is eaten with tabbouleh, fattoush (future date, I will share my favorite recipe), couscous, tahini or hummus.
Several types of dairy, particularly buttermilk and yogurt, have just the right amount of acid to gently break down meat’s tougher fibers when added to a marinade. Yogurt has a mild amount of sugar, which enhances the flavor of the meat, with just a little sweetness, but will not burn on the grill.
Other great chicken recipes:
Braised Indian-spiced chicken with Peas, Tomatoes & Potatoes: http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2015/10/amazing-braised-indian-spiced-chicken.html
Chicken with White Wine & Herb sauce, featuring sous vide recipe: http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2015/07/chicken-breasts-white-wine-herbs-sauce.html
Chicken Schnitzel with Lemon-caper sauce: http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2012/12/chicken-schnitzel-with-lemon-caper-sauce.html
- 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1” cubes
- 1¾ C full-fat Greek yogurt (divided)
- ½ C plus 2 Tb olive oil (divided)
- 1 Tb freshly ground black pepper, and more to taste
- 1 Tb ground allspice
- 1½ tsp ground coriander
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 8 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
- 1 small white onion, grated
- Skewers for grilling
- 4 pita breads
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 1 Tb fresh lemon juice
- ½ C minced cucumber
- ½ C frozen, thawed chopped spinach
- 2 Tb minced fresh dill
- 2 Tb minced fresh mint
- 2 Tb minced fresh parsley
- 1 tsp dried mint
- ½ bulb fennel, outer layers discarded, cored and finely chopped
- Sumac, for garnish
Combine chicken, ¼ C yogurt, ½ C oil, 1Tb pepper, the allspice, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, ¾ of the garlic, and the onion in a bowl; cover and refrigerate for an hour.
|Chicken in the marinade|
Build a medium-heat fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.) Thread the chicken on skewers, discarding marinade; season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken, turning as needed, until charred and almost cooked through, about 10 minutes; remove from grill.
|Skewered and ready for the grill|
|.....and now on the grill!|
Place pita on grill and top with skewers; grill until pita is slightly charred and chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes more. Transfer pita to a cutting board and let chicken skewers rest on top for 10 minutes. Soak up the flavorful juices of this dish by resting chicken skewers on grilled pita during final stages of cooking.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the remaining garlic and the lemon juice in a bowl; let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in remaining yogurt and oil, the cucumber, spinach, fresh and dried herbs, fennel, salt and pepper.
|Ready for the pita|
Garnish shawarma, (chicken skewers on pita), with sumac and serve with yogurt sauce to accolades. In addition to the flavors added by the marinade, letting the flavors seep into the pita particularly enhances this dish. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most are spices and easy to assemble. The spices mixed with yogurt are both memorable and an explosion of middle-eastern flavors! Of all the street food in the world, chicken shawarma has my heart. Crazy, delicious, and packed with flavor!
This dish would pair well with beer or wine. Consider a dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir or an oaked, dry cabernet sauvignon.