NanaBread's Chicken Shawarma
I’ve had an itch to try new recipes lately. Exciting new recipes. Exotic new recipes. Inspired by our impending vacation plans, I decided to tackle something from far away lands – chicken shawarma
. Have I ever tried it? No, I have not. But that’s the beauty of trying new things. Sometimes you just have to crawl out of your comfort zone.
Enter the TasteSpotting website. Ever seen it? It’s a visual feast, for sure, but it’s more than that. It’s a network of bloggers who post their recipes for the world to see and enjoy. It’s where I found this gorgeous recipe for Chicken Shawarma by kurryleaves. Her gorgeous photo on TasteSpotting peaked my interest, but her post convinced me to give it a try. It convinced me hard.
Now fast forward to our trip on Monday to our local Mediterranean grocer. If you remember, I mentioned it in my rambling Dr Pepper-induced rant about my new bargain designer purse from Macy’s. (Do I owe you an apology if you read that one? I feel like I might.) Anyway, The Complete Package and I dropped in for lunch and while we were there I browsed the grocery selection. What else is a girl to do while waiting for her gyro with extra feta and hot sauce? While browsing, I found garbanzos to make hummus with, the most fabulous bag of warm pita bread I’ve ever seen in my entire life, a small block of my beloved haloumi cheese, and the new love of my life – pasteurized kefir cheese. Have you seen this stuff? Have mercy – I’m in love. Big love. It’s like slightly soft, slightly salty cream cheese that melts in your mouth. It’s like Greek yogurt on steroids. It’s what my new Syrian buddy at the Mediterranean market recommended. My new bestest kefir eating buddy. We’re tight now.
Oh, kefir cheese... where have you been all my life?
So, I tell The Complete Package that I’ll be branching out and making him chicken shawarma with all my market goodies, and you know what he ordered for lunch? A chicken shawarma. Go figure. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I know what I was. I was thinking “great, now I can be judged for a recipe I’ve never made against a Syrian kefir-eating shawarma guru.” A lesser woman would have thrown a little hissy fit and put the pita back on the shelf, but not me. I’m tenacious. I love a challenge. And at the time, I was hopped up on Dr Pepper. (Again…I apologize.)
So here’s what I done did. Basically, I used kurryleaves’ recipe for the chicken marinade, the toppings and the method, then went out on my own for the tahini and tzatziki. So let’s take a look at how it all went down. Ready, Freddy?
First, I bought a package of chicken breast tenders. I brought them home, removed that crazy tendon that runs down the middle, and threw them in a gallon Ziploc bag with the marinade. I should clarify that I used kurryleave’s marinade as a guideline. For instance, I left out cumin (yuck), substituted my favorite yellow curry powder for the turmeric, and I added cayenne pepper (because I was unsure of what pepper powder might be). It smelled so good! The chicken has to marinate in the fridge overnight, so start this one early.
Next, I made a batch of my favorite lemon & garlic hummus. I made about a quart so we could eat it as a side dish with the extra pita bread and to use in place of the tahini sauce on the sandwiches.
After the hummus was in the fridge, I mixed up a batch of tzatziki to dress the sandwiches with. I made my own version based on a few I found at Tasty Kitchen, my favorite recipe source. Since I despise dill (except for dill pickles), I used flat-leaf Italian parsley. So in all, it was my new kefir cheese (or you could use Greek yogurt), parsley, finely minced onion, grated cucumber (pressed into paper towels to remove any liquid), salt, lemon juice and a splash of red wine vinegar. Oh, I also threw in a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Using the kefir or yogurt as a base, you add the minced onion, grated cucumber and parsley (or dill) – then add the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and salt to your own taste. This is really good stuff, especially if you’re a Greek yogurt and cucumber lover. I made extra of this, too, so we could really slather it on and eat the leftovers with pita bread. Tzatziki is great as a dip, too.
Pita bread, hummus and tzatziki - the shawarma trinity
Last but not least, you’ll want to slice up a tomato, a little bit of purple onion, some cucumber and a little lettuce. Set it aside until you’re ready to assemble your shawarmas.
In a hot non-stick skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of canola oil. Fry your marinated chicken tenders until they are well done, turning once, and place them on a cutting board or plate to cool for a few minutes. When ready, chop or slice your chicken into bite-size pieces.
That colorful marinade is pure flavor, baby.
Now for the fun part – shawarma assembly. If you’re using a large, thin middle-eastern style pita, lay it out flat. If you’re using the smallish ones you find in most grocery stores, cut the top edge off and open it up. Give the inside of your pita a schmear of hummus. Top with chicken, then spoon on some tzatziki sauce. If you want, you can give it a shot of hot sauce or some sriracha chili sauce. That’s what I’ll be doing. Top with your choice of cucumber, tomato, purple onion and lettuce, then carefully roll up your pita and dig in. The verdict: loved it! I loved making all the different components. Loved that gorgeous marinade. Loved the tzatziki. Loved it all. I’ll definitely be making this again. It’s a keeper.
We're gonna shawarma all up in this joint.
One last warning. Make sure you have napkins or paper towels close by and push your sleeves up. This sandwich may get messy. Serve it with a side of hummus and tzatziki with carrot sticks or a nice Greek salad. I’d recommend an ice-cold Dr Pepper, too, but that’s where I tend to get in trouble.