Chicken Shawarma and Rice with Tzatziki Sauce

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This is a recipe that was part of a mission to recreate some street food explorations involving shawarmas and food trucks. Shawarma is typically made on a rotisserie-type grill and the meat is grilled for many hours. I don't even have a regular grill, so tried making it in a pan and also tried making it in the oven. Oven-roasted shawarma is probably the closest approximation to the real thing.

The key is to marinate the chicken for a while. I've tried different marinades and a yogurt-based one with just a tad of lemon juice works best, as the fats in the yogurt allow for an emulsion of the rest of the ingredients (if you don't use the yogurt, the oil in the marinade will end up sitting on top of the chicken).

Let the chicken marinate for at least one to two hours, or longer if time permits. Once marinated, roast the chicken in the oven on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Do not crowd the chicken pieces to allow them to crispen a bit. Once done, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces and serve over rice (recipe below), with hummus, pickles, pickled jalapenos, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, or, in a pita.

Chicken Shawarma
(Serves 4-6)

You will need:
2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 hot Hungarian paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice

1. Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl.
2. Combine yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic. In a separate bowl add salt and pepper and remaining spices, stir until combined. Mix in the spices into the yogurt mixture and pour over the chicken. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight.
3. At this stage you can do one of two things. you can either cook the chicken thighs on a grill until done or roast them. For roasting, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken thighs on a greased foil-lined cookie sheet (don't spread each thigh flat, rather bunch each thigh piece to avoid over-drying) and make sure each thigh piece is about 1-2 inches apart from the other. Roast the chicken until done, about 25-30 minutes until browned and fully cooked but still tender. Let rest for a few minutes before cutting into bite-size pieces.
4. Serve over rice (recipe below) or in a pita with: Tzatziki sauce (recipe below); sliced cucumber, tomato and onion; pickles, green olives and pickled jalapeno slices; hummus; crumbled feta cheese; Sriracha sauce.

Yellow Rice

You will need:
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 small Italian or cubanelle pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch cardamom
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 cloves
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup basmati rice

1. Preheat oil in a sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until fragrant and translucent about 2-3 minutes. Add the pepper and the garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant and the pepper is softened, about 3 minutes more. Add the spices. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add the chicken broth and let it come to a simmer. Then add the rice. Let the rice come back to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Cook on very low heat, covered, until the  water has evaporated and the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork until ready to serve.

Tzatziki Sauce

You will need:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 small seedless Persian cucumber (about 1/4 cup), minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh mint, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
A dash of coriander
A dash of cumin
A pinch of onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until well-mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


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