Shawarma-Style Chicken Skewers
There is a little, unassuming Middle Eastern restaurant in Michigan Plaza in downtown Chicago that serves a Thanksgiving turkey plate year around. I personally don't want Thanksgiving but once a year but when I worked in that building, one of my favorite lunches at this restaurant was the turkey shawarma sandwich. It is so flavorful - cloves, allspice, turmeric, and a squeeze of lime - perfect balance of warm and tangy. While I can't recreate the full effect of a revolving rotisserie spit, I've wanted to make a version for ages. I read up on a few recipes and gave it a try on some skewers on our gas grill and while nothing can imitate a real shawarma, these turned out really great. I really need to buy some metal skewers but in the meantime, if you're like me and using bamboo skewers, just remember to soak them for 20-30 mins before cooking to stop them from burning.
I served these skewers with my pearl cous cous salad. They would be perfect in a leafy salad, in a pita sandwich (obviously), or by themselves with some tzatziki and a glass of cold beer. I really want to make a marinade with this spice mix and some Greek yogurt, bake the chicken in the oven, and serve over some rice and a cold cucumber salad - I'll keep you posted of my next shawarma adventures.
My recipe uses whole spices, that dry roasted and ground myself. You can use store-bought and pre-ground spices but trust me, there is a distinct difference store-bought and homemade spice mixes. Aside from the difference in flavor, it will also fill your whole house up with beautiful smells. If it's accessible to you, I strongly recommend you don't cut corners and do it the "long way". You'll thank me!
- 3-4 chicken breasts, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 tsp whole allspice berries
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/3 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- salt to taste
- 1 lime to serve
- Mint leaves to serve
If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes.
Dry roast the cloves, allspice berries, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and cinnamon stick for 3-4 mins over medium high heat. Using a spice or coffee grinder, grind the spices well. In a bowl, add the olive oil, the ground spices, turmeric, cayenne, and salt and mix well.
Add the cubed chicken to the shawarma marinade and marinate for 30 mins. Then, skewer the pieces onto the skewers.
If using a stove-top grill, heat it up on high heat and once very hot, rub some olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Place the skewers on the grill and cook 7 mins on both sides, for 14 mins total. Press the skewers on the grill to get deep grill marks and a good char. If using a gas or charcoal grill, grill for the same amount on each side.
Squeeze some lime juice on the skewers and sprinkle some chopped mint leaves on top. Serve!