Well, I’ve done something new, actually a few new things. Lina over at Lin’s Recipes created a food challenge for the month of January, a “Rare Recipe Challenge.” Lina did her homework and found dishes from around the world that may be new to you and me. People were invited to pick one of the dishes to research, find recipes for, and create. The hook- you had to choose something you had never eaten or made before. Clearly, I was still riding the sugar and cocktail fueled high of the holidays because I quickly agreed to not only my first “challenge,” but also to making something I had never eaten, heard of, or had a recipe for. Oh and let’s not forget, by participating I agreed to post all about it! Yikes!!!
I chose to make Shish Taouk (pronounced “shish tawook”), a Middle Eastern type of fast food. Here’s a bit of trivia: did you know that ‘shish’ means skewer and ‘taouk’ means chicken in Turkish? These marinated chicken kebabs are found throughout Middle East; though each country has its own twist on the marinade. And that is the biggest challenge… not only does each country have its own version, but each cook within each country has their own version. It would be like doing a Google search among Italian grandmothers, with the inquiry “meatball recipe.” The number of results would equal the number of grandmothers, and each recipe would be slightly different. There would be no ONE meatball recipe. Well, it’s the same with Shish Taouk. There are thousands of recipes out there, and I read a lot of them. Some use yogurt, some don’t; some use tomato paste, some ketchup, and I found a few that use both; the spices were all over place- mint, thyme, cumin, paprika, oregano, cayenne. Lemon juice and bunches of garlic were a constant, though even there the amounts varied. For example, one recipe called for 1 cup of lemon juice, while another (using the same amount of chicken) used only ¼ cup. Cooking methods ran the gamut from grilled on a barbeque to pan fried to broiled. I would have preferred to grill, but because of weather, I broiled my chicken kebabs and the veggie kebabs I made to serve alongside the meat.
After loads of research I came up with my recipe for Shish Taouk; full disclosure here, since I’ve never tasted an authentic Shish Taouk I have no idea if my method is a proper interpretation or not. That said, the night I was making this for dinner my oldest walked into the house after basketball practice and announced, “It smells good in here, like a Middle Eastern restaurant!” Ahhh, the sweet smell of success (or shish taouk!). The yogurt tenderized the chicken; the lemon juice added just enough tang to balance out the pungency of the garlic. The spices I chose worked well- cumin brought just the right amount of heat and the smoked paprika added a lovely smokiness that was especially welcome since the kebabs were cooked under a broiler, not grilled outside over a fire. The tomato paste and smoked paprika turned the entire mixture an orange-pink which provided a beautiful color to the finished dish.
The entire family loved it and I’ll definitely be making it again. I served the chicken with broiled skewers of bell peppers, red onions, grape tomatoes and warm pita bread. In Lebanon they traditionally serve Shish Taouk with toum, a garlicky lemony mayonnaise. Oh my, it is good and will be used in my house for more than just these kebabs. Tzatziki would also be delicious- not traditional, but it seems everyone has their own version of this dish, so why not?
Well, I’m off to the Rare Recipe Challenge and bringing my Shish Taouk. Thank you to Lina for creating this fun challenge, and thank you to Jhuls from thenotsocreativecook.wordpress.com for judging the entries. I loved getting outside my culinary comfort zone, researching this delicious dish, and devouring the results. New year, new foods, new challenges!
2 cups plain yogurt
2 lemons, juiced
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into kebab sized pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 egg white
juice of ½ lemon
generous pinch of kosher salt
½ cup of canola oil
1-2 Tablespoons ice water
Combine yogurt, juice of 2 lemons, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Add chicken pieces to yogurt marinade and stir. Be sure that all the chicken pieces are coated in the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
While chicken is marinating make the toum (garlic mayonnaise). In a food processor place garlic, lemon juice and generous pinch of salt. Process to chop up garlic. You will have to stop and scrape sides of processor several times while chopping the garlic. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the egg white. As the processor continues to run, slowly add the canola oil in a steady stream. You should have a mayonnaise at this point. Thin out slightly by adding 1-2 Tablespoons of ice water while the machine is running. Transfer mayo to airtight container and refrigerate.
When you are ready to make the kebabs, preheat your broiler or grill. Thread 5-6 pieces of chicken on each skewer (It will be gloopy, but don’t worry. There is no need to scrape yogurt mixture off the chicken pieces).
Broil or grill chicken until done, about 15 minutes, turning over once at the halfway mark. Serve immediately with pita, toum, and grilled veggies.
Make the toum while the chicken is marinating…