How to make the perfect chicken shawarma – recipe | Chicken

Shawarma, an Arabic word believed to come from the Turkish çervirmek, meaning to rotate or roast, is the Levantine cousin of the Greek gyros and the Turkish döner: skewers of sliced ​​or minced meat, turned in front of a vertical grill, and cooked slowly. in its own delicious fat until it is sliced ​​onto your plate. It’s no surprise that such an ingenious idea has become so widespread, but each version has its own distinctive character, and shawarma, found from Egypt to Iraq, is quite different from herbed gyros or the more lightly spiced onion doner. , and different again. in all countries where it is popular. What unites them all, however, is the difficulty of recreating this much-loved street food at home, if one doesn’t live close to professionals and, inexplicably, also lacks a meter-long rotating skewer in front of a barbecue grill. four burner gas in the kitchen itself. Fortunately, I discovered that it is possible to get great results without investing in either.

The chicken

Chicken breast version: Joudie Kalla's shawarma.The brisket is the best – Joudie Kalla’s shawarma. Felcity miniatures.

Although shawarma is also made from lamb, beef, and turkey, I’ve stuck with chicken, because it seemed like more than enough room to explore with just that, though the same technique could be adapted to other meats. Most of the recipes call for chicken thigh, and only Joudie Kalla (who writes in her book Baladi, “Who doesn’t love shawarma? It’s a Palestinian staple…I love it, as long as it’s done right “) using brisket instead. My testers and I agree that as tender as it is, it also feels a bit dry compared to thigh; That being said, the fatty chicken skin in the recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi on Ottolenghi’s website doesn’t have many fans around here either. As much as we love crispy chicken skin, it’s left a bit chewy here, and the thighs seem to have enough fat to keep them bathed for the relatively short cooking time.

Spices and marinade

Yasmin Khan’s book Zaitoun and Michael Solomonov’s Israeli Soul are responsible for the two simplest marinades I found: the first uses only (!) lemon juice and zest, garlic, turmeric, allspice, cumin, olive oil and pepper, while the latter avoids lemon. and garlic, but put cardamom and coriander instead of allspice. Ottolenghi’s team adds fresh ginger and coriander, paprika, sumac, and the North African spice mix ras el hanout, which usually contains ginger, cinnamon, and sometimes Kalla cloves, though not her red onion. Like Obi and Salma from the Middle Eats YouTube channel, Kalla also calls for garlic powder – in addition to most of the spices listed above, they also include onion powder, smoked paprika, baharat, ground ginger, bay leaves, and nutmeg. . Nigella Lawson brings bay leaf and nutmeg to the party, also contributing some chili flakes.

Pack the chicken in a tin and grill: Nigella Lawson's shawarma.Pack the chicken in a tin: Nigella Lawson’s shawarma.

In short, there are plenty of options in the spice department before tackling the choice of acid for both flavoring and tenderizing the meat. In addition to lemon juice, the recipes use vinegar, sometimes in quantity: Kalla adds white and red wine versions), while Obi and Salma, like Sabrina Ghayour, marinate their meat in yogurt and also add tomato puree.

I can’t deny that all of the above are tasty, but we prefer the less aggressive spicy examples, though we miss the acidic element in those that omit it entirely. The lemon seems like a milder option than the vinegar, and the garlic feels imperative, though not too much, given that there will be garlic in the sauce as well, and even the meatiest chicken thigh is easily overwhelmed. For the same reason, I’ve kept the speciation relatively simple: the canonical cumin, coriander, turmeric, and pepper, plus some sweet spices, because I love them, and Obi and Salma’s smoked paprika for a touch of fire reminiscent of a coal. grill.

If you’re intimidated by the ingredient list and don’t have all of them in the house, rest assured, even the simpler versions I tried were extremely good – Khan or Solomonov will make you very happy.

The kitchen

Seasoning is, of course, a matter of personal preference; more important is how you cook the chicken. All but Lawson cut the chicken into thin strips: Kalla and Khan before marinating, Solomonov, Obi and Salma after but before cooking, and Ottolenghi and Tamimi after cooking. I find the middle approach preferable, because the marinated strips take on so much flavor that the chicken itself is lost, whereas cooking whole thighs means you lose some of the crispy edges you get from exposing more of the meat’s surface to the heat. heat.

All the spices: Ottolenghi's shawarma.All the spices: Ottolenghi’s shawarma.

You can get delicious results by packing the chicken in a baking dish, as Lawson does, inspired, she says, by Sam Sifton’s recipe for the New York Times, or by frying it, as Kalla does, or by cooking it on a griddle. . like Khan. You can mix it up by grilling the meat and finishing it in the oven, as Ottolenghi and Tamimi do, or by roasting it in a hot oven (“or in a deep fryer, until the fat has run off the skin and it’s crispy). “), then slice and fry it with more seasonings as recommended by Paul, founder of the I Am Döner chain. But for the best results, I think you need to try a little harder.

Solomonov poaches the marinated meat, wraps it tightly in cling film, then cools it, slices it thin, and briefly frys it until it’s charred around the edges, leaving it tender and flavorful. However, my favorite method, and not just because it involves less work, comes from Obi and Salma. As Obi says, “It’s hard to get the same texture and flavor… if the meat is in direct contact with the pan,” so his technique threads it onto ordinary skewers, as tightly as possible to keep it juicy, and then skewers it. place under the grill, “for direct heat but no actual contact with the surface, for a more authentic flavor and texture.” Not only is it a one-step process, but the results actually taste like the real thing. It’s a stroke of genius, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

the accompaniments

Once you have the right chicken, it’s up to you whether to serve it with rice, stuffed in a fluffy pita, or wrapped in paper-thin lavash, and which sauce you choose, if any. Most recipes I try include a tahini-based sauce, often with yogurt, unless they’re Israeli (dairy and meat aren’t a popular combination for much of the population), but I actually like it better. Obi and Salma’s toum. , or garlic sauce: “You can’t make sandwiches without it and using hummus instead is a cardinal sin!” – Topped with a generous dollop of chili sauce (although you could also use spicy Yemeni zhoug, as Solomonov, Ottolenghi, and Tamimi suggest; their recipes are online).

Felicity's perfect shawarma.Felicity’s perfect shawarma.

Sides include the latter’s red onion-cucumber sauce with dill and sumac, or just chopped cucumber, tomato, and onion, but I urge you to find some pickled cucumbers, turnips, chili peppers, or other veggies to finish off the dish; if you don’t have a local distributor, they are easily found online or made at home and complete the dish perfectly for me.

Perfect Chicken Shawarma

Homework 30 minutes
Marinate 3hrs+
Cook 10 minutes
It serves 2, and easily higherable

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

for the marinade
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
2 cardamom pods
seeds removed and ground
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves
peeled and shredded

To serve (all optional)
Toum or tahini sauce
zhoug or hot sauce
Vegetables in brine and/or chopped cucumber, tomato and onion
Chopped parsley

Pound the chicken until it is a fairly even thickness.

Put a small skillet over medium heat, then add the ground spices and toast until fragrant.

Felicity Cloake's shawarma.  Toast the spices.

Whisk in the remaining marinade ingredients…

Felicity Cloake's Shawarma: Mix spices with lemon juice and oil.

…then rub the mixture all over the chicken and put in an airtight container in the fridge for three to eight hours.

Felicity Cloake's Shawarma: Marinate the chicken for at least three hours.

Cut the chicken into thin strips, then thread one end of each strip onto a metal skewer. Thread a second skewer through the other end of each strip and push the strips down to the other end of the skewers so they are tight.

Felicity Cloake's Shawarma: Thread marinated chicken onto skewers.

Heat the grill to medium heat and find a pan on which you can balance the skewers so they are suspended instead of touching the bottom.

Grill for five minutes, then flip and grill for another five minutes; chicken should be charred and cooked through.

Shawarma by Felicity Cloake.  Grill the skewers.

Rest the chicken in its own juices to cool slightly while you heat the buns and prepare the sides, then serve immediately.

Felicity Cloake's Shawarma: Prepare the sides.

Chicken Shawarma: Why is it so popular around the world and which regional version is your favourite? How do you like to eat it and where does the best you’ve ever eaten serve?

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