Saturday, September 24, 2011

Better Than Takeout: Fiery Chicken Shawarma With Pita

I think we're firmly established by now that I like lots of BIG flavor in my food...the more spice, the happier I am. So, when I found a recipe at Cooking Light's website earlier this week for chicken shawarma that I could make at home, I immediately made it for dinner that night. I had most of the ingredients on hand in my kitchen, but I did stop by my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant to pick up two pieces of their yummy homemade saj pita. It's cooked in a wood-fired oven, so it's soft in some spots...and crispy in others. I knew it would make the perfect pairing for the yogurt-and-spice marinated chicken breast!

Boy, is this dish delicious...and very spicy! If you don't like your food on the hotter side of spicy, simply reduce the red pepper flakes by half. Michael proclaimed the spice level perfect for him, but it was thisclose to being too spicy for me...the cooling tahini-dill yogurt sauce and the cold salad mixture took the edge off just enough for me. We agreed that this dish was as good as any shawarma we've had in a restaurant...for a fraction of the price. And I got to eat it in my pajamas while watching King of the Hill on Adult Swim! All together, it took about 45 minutes to pull this dish together -- and that included letting the chicken marinade while I whipped up the yogurt sauce and salad. 

Fiery Chicken Shawarma With Pita
adapted from Cooking Light

Step 1:  Combine the following ingredients in a mixing bowl: 1 tbs. Greek yogurt, 1 tbs. lemon juice, 2 minced or grated garlic cloves, 1-2 tbs. chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. Greek oregano, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk the marinade ingredients well to combine. Add 1 lb. cubed chicken breast to the marinade, and stir well to combine.

Step 2:  Let the chicken hang out in the fridge while you prepare the other components of the dish. First, make a sauce for the shawarma by combining the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, the juice of one small lemon, 1/2 tsp. dried dill, and 1 tbs. tahini. Stir well to combine and put in the fridge until you're ready to assemble the meal. It'll look a bit thin, but it thickens up while it's in the fridge.

Step 3:  Slice half of a yellow onion into matchstick pieces and cook in a small non-stick pan over medium heat until nicely caramelized. Meanwhile, assemble the salad portion of the plate. Combine your favorite salad greens, slivers of red onion, sliced roma tomato, sliced seedless cucumber, feta, and your favorite bottled vinaigrette in a large bowl. Toss to combine.

Step 4:  Heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces. Brown well on both sides until cooked...this took me about six minutes. To serve, place some of the salad on a plate. Top with half of the chicken pieces, some of the caramelized onions, and a dollop of the yogurt sauce. Serve with pita wedges on the side.

As an alternate serving option, you can make the components into a wrap sandwich. That's how Michael wanted to have his shwarama. Simply add half of the chicken, some of the caramelized onions, salad, and yogurt sauce and wrap up in a pita...and serve with more of the salad on the side.

No matter how you serve this dish, I promise you that it's going to taste fantastic! The flavors combine perfectly: the soft pita, spicy chicken, sweet caramelized onions, crisp salad, and creamy sauce are a great combinations of flavors and textures. I think that some hummus would be a nice addition spread on the pita as well. I hope that the next time you're looking for something "different" to do with "plain old" chicken, you'll give this recipe a try. 

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