Friday, June 4, 2010

Lemon Chicken Kebabs

These kebabs pair nicely with a rice pilaf and some quickly braised greens. Remember that metal skewers stay hot for quite a while, so be sure to use oven mitts to handle them.

(serves two adults and two children)

The Kebabs
1½ lb boneless chicken thighs
2 lemons
8 cloves garlic
3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet onions (such as Vidalias), peeled and cut into eighths
2 red (or yellow) bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks

The Sauce
2 c plain yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
kosher salt, to taste

1. Trim any excess fat from the thighs and cut them into golf ball–sized chunks.

2. Cut the lemons lengthwise into quarters. Place them with the peeled and trimmed garlic in a covered microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high until the lemons soften, about 10–15 minutes. Let cool.

3. Strain the juice into the jar of a blender. Transfer the garlic to the blender. Then, using a sharp paring knife, scrape the pulp and as much white pith as possible off the yellow lemon peel. Add the scraped peel to the blender along with the olive oil, brown sugar, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and pepper. Puree to make a soft paste.

4. Setting aside two tablespoons of the paste (for the sauce), scrape the rest of the marinade into a large, resealable plastic storage bag. Add the chicken pieces and massage until all are coated well. Refrigerator for at least one hour (but not overnight).

5. Meanwhile, start the grill and prep the onions and bell peppers (see tip below). When the chicken has marinated sufficiently, remove from the bag and thread onto metal skewers, alternating chicken pieces with vegetable pieces.

6. Make the sauce by adding the yogurt, diced cucumber, chopped cilantro, and salt to the reserved marinade.

7. Grill the kebabs, turning every 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with the sauce on the side.

• You can use chicken breasts, but dark meat grills better because it doesn’t dry out.

* When prepping onions for the grill, it’s useful to cut them through the root end. Keeping just a little bit of the root with each piece. Doing so helps the onion hold together as you skewer it.

• To give the onions and bell peppers a little more flavor, I sometimes roll them in the plastic bag from which I’ve removed the chicken so that they can pick up a little marinade.

• If you use a cucumber from your garden or a local farm stand, there’s no need to peel it. Cucumbers from supermarkets, however, are generally waxed and need to be peeled.

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