Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicken Shawarma

You might look at this picture and think, "I thought she said chicken shwarma; what the hell is this?" And, for the most part, I would have to agree with you. When I think of shwarma, I see small eateries with meat roasting on an upright spit (similar to that used in gyro places), where the meat is sliced off in thin strips, then finely chopped with onion, tomato and lettuce before being wrapped up in flatbread to make a Middle Eastern snack that is part burrito, part salt lick. Yet, there is this one place nearby where Seth and I go to order "big platter" (the owners/cooks speak about 10 words of English and the 5 Arabic words in my lexicon don't help much*) and we are given a plate loaded with hummus, sliced vegetables, lettuce, flatbread and chicken that looks remarkably like this. Do they call it shwarma? I have no idea, but one of my Middle Eastern cookbooks does, so there it is.

This is the second time I have tried this recipe and I am still not sold on it. Originally it calls for 2 pounds (1 kilo) of chicken breast that you season with a total of 2 teaspoons mixed spices. 2 teaspoons for 2 pounds of meat - I just couldn't taste it, so I doubled the spices and still found it lacking. This time I tripled the amount and accidentally added too much salt, giving my dish just the faintest hint of salt lick. Getting closer.

As you can see above, I used chicken thighs this time (shocking, I know!) I marinated them whole, baked them halfway, shredded the meat, then baked for another 10 minutes. It is much easier to julienne raw chicken breasts and go from there, so that is what I'll give you in the recipe.

Shawarma dajaj
The Middle Eastern Cookbook, by Maria Khalife

2lb or 1kilo skinned and boned chicken breat
1/4cup lemon juice
1/2cup vegetable oil
3/4tsp of each: ground cloves, ground nutmeg, allspice, white pepper (I used black)
1 1/4tsp sumac
1 1/4tsp oregano
1tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped (I used one large)

1. Cut chicken in julienne strips. In a bowl mix the chicken slices with all the other ingredients. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the chicken with the marinade in an oven-proof dish. Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is tender. 

3. Traditionally served with flatbread, tomatoes, french fries (yes, really), lettuce leaves, hummus and garlic dip. I served mine with lettuce, pita and homemade pickles. 

*- Right, left, straight, stop, thank you.

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