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A quick yogurt marinade is the key to juicy chicken in these spiced skewers

UPDATED: Mon., April 22, 2019, 3:37 p.m.

Spiced Chicken Skewers uses a yogurt marinade with many of the spices typically found in Persian dishes. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg / Washington Post)
Spiced Chicken Skewers uses a yogurt marinade with many of the spices typically found in Persian dishes. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg / Washington Post)
By Bonnie S. Benwick Washington Post

It is said that, given a dozen hours to do so, a yogurt marinade can tenderize chicken. Well, we don’t have that kind of time, but I can tell you what a 20-minute rest in this sunny mixture does for plain old chunks of chicken breast: It coats them, acting like a moisture-lock so the meat stays juicy. That is no small feat for white-meat chicken under the broiler.

The knife work here will take you hardly any time at all, with only red onion and garlic to break down.

Even if you’re cooking for only one or two, use the amounts listed below. Leftovers will make a nice next-day lunch.

Spiced Chicken Skewers

Adapted from “New Kitchen Basics,” by Claire Thomson (HardieGrant/Quadrille, 2019).

Chicken picks up a lot of flavor in this quick yogurt-based marinade, seasoned with spices you’ll find in many Persian dishes.

You might have time during the prep for this recipe to soak a few bamboo skewers; if not, you’ll need four medium-size metal skewers. I prefer using the latter, as there is no risk of stray wooden threads during the skewered-kebab dismount.

In addition to flatbread, you can serve this with rice and/or a chopped salad.

1/2 medium red onion

1 large clove garlic

1/4 cup Greek yogurt, preferably full fat

1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Generous pinch ground cardamom (up to 1/2 teaspoon)

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 to 1 whole lemon

Warm flatbread, for serving

Peel and coarsely chop the red onion and garlic. Place them both in a food processor, then add the yogurt, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Pulse just until the onion is finely chopped, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

Cut the chicken into 1 1/2-inch chunks (discarding any visible fat), seasoning them lightly with more salt. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture and stir to coat evenly; let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. (During this time, you could soak bamboo skewers in a shallow pan of water if you don’t have metal skewers.)

Meanwhile, cut the lemon (half or whole; to taste) into wedges approximately the same size as the chicken pieces. Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Thread the coated chicken pieces and lemon wedges onto the skewers so the components are just touching each other. Place the skewers on the pan; broil for about 8 minutes, turning them once with tongs halfway through. The chicken and lemon should be lightly charred in spots.

Transfer to plates; pull the chicken and lemon off the skewers. Squeeze the broiled/lightly charred lemon wedges over the chicken while it’s hot, and serve with flatbread.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Nutrition (based on 3 servings): Calories, 200; total fat, 5 g; saturated fat, 2 g; cholesterol, 100 mg; sodium, 460 mg; carbohydrates, 5 g; dietary fiber, 1 g; sugars, 2 g; protein, 33 g.

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