A Mid-East Feast: Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps

First let me say… this recipe is A-MAAAAZ-ING! It’s like Jem and the Holograms kind of truly outrageous-ly delicious. I want to apologize for that. I do, but it’s stuck in my head so it should be stuck in your head too. Misery loves company, or so they say.

Honestly, I had my doubts about this one for a few reasons. Typically yogurt is reserved for baked goods, not chicken. I mean yogurt ON chicken just seems wrong. I’m sheltered. I can’t help it. That’s the American in me who has only ventured out of the country a few short times, to Canada and Aruba. Neither offered anything remotely Middle-Eastern. Unless somehow you consider Little Caesars pizza somehow Middle-Eastern, but I doubt it. And Aruba was the last place I expected to see that btw.

The combinations of spices called for left me feeling like I was mixing together something for a pumpkin dessert and a savory side dish. It didn’t feel right, but I powered on.

I opted to prepare this over the course of a 24 hour period, stopping after the first round of cooking. Yes, this recipe calls for cooking the chicken twice but it’s SO worth it and the chicken isn’t at all dry. Pinky swear. Though, if it is… it’s your fault. Don’t blame me. It should be flavorful and tender with seared sides. It’s brilliant.

When day 2 rolled around, lunch was quick to whip up since the only thing left to do was sear the sliced chicken in hot oil and wrap these babies up.

The chicken has wonderful (and not weird at all) flavor. Mayonnaise is slathered on soft pita bread, topped off with tangy pickles and seared chicken strips. I opted to slather my pita with spicy mustard before layering on the chicken. Ohh it was heaven. I’m not a mayo fan, so that was a perfect substitution. I highly suggest you try both ways.

I only prepared a half batch which was perfect for 2-3 sandwiches with some scraps remaining. In the future, I’ll prepare this in just the same way.

Trust me on this, make this recipe. You’ll thank me…or rather Faith because it’s her recipe. :)

In case you missed it, last week we made Faith’s zucchini fritters.

*Note: While I did not opt to make the homemade garlic mayo or pickles, I’m including the recipes for them in this post in case you should want to make them along with the Shawarma chicken as Faith recommends.

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic:  Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus 2 to 24 hours for the chicken to marinate
Cooking Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Spiced Shawarma Chicken Wraps
SHAWARMA DAJAJ

Shawarma Ingredients:
1 batch Shawarma Spice Mix
½ cup (125 ml) plain yogurt
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1½ teaspoons salt
2 lb (1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing
16 flatbreads Garlic Mayonnaise (page 24)
Pickles (page 27)

Shawarma Spice Mix:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¹/ 8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) (optional)

Prepare the Shawarma Spice Mix.

Combine the spice mix with the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F and spread 1 tablespoon of oil on the inside of a large baking dish.

Scrape off any excess marinade from the chicken with your hands. Starting in the center of the oiled dish, arrange the chicken so that it overlaps, and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Bake (uncovered) 1 hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked; cool. (It’s done when you cut into the center and there is no pink.)

Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a large cutting board; slice it very thinly across the grain, then transfer it back into the pan it was cooked in to soak up the juices (the chicken can be refrigerated this way for up to 3 days before continuing with the rest of the recipe, or you can continue after 10 minutes).

Coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Once hot, add the sliced chicken and sauté until crispy and golden brown (you may need to sauté the chicken in two or three batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded).

Spread some Garlic Mayonnaise in the center of each piece of bread; add some chicken and pickles (and any other vegetables you like) and roll it up.

Toast the sandwiches on a dry griddle or a flat sandwich press so that the bread gets golden brown and slightly crispy.

Serve as is, or cut into small rounds; serve with additional Garlic Mayonnaise for dipping.

Pickles
MEKHALLEL

Yields 1 liter (1.06 qt) jar of pickles
Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus up to 20 days for the pickles to ferment

Pickle ingredients:
1 cup (250 ml) hot water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar 7-10 Persian or Japanese cucumbers washed and ends slightly trimmed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Purified water, to cover the cucumber
½ teaspoon oil

Combine the 1 cup (250 ml) hot water, salt, and sugar in a large measuring cup with a pour spout; stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved and then cool to room temperature.

Sterilize a 1-liter (1.06 qt) canning jar.

Cut the cucumbers into spears by cutting them in half lengthwise, and then cutting each half lengthwise into 3 equal pieces.

Put 1 clove of garlic in the bottom of the jar, add the cucumber spears, and then add the other clove of garlic on top.

Pour in the water/salt/sugar mixture, then add enough purified water so that the cucumbers are completely covered, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of free space at the top.

Let the jar sit at room temperature to form pickles. The pickles are ready to eat when the cucumber turns khaki green in color, and they smell faintly of vinegar. This will take about 5 to 7 days in hot weather and 15 to 20 days in colder weather.

Once the pickles are ready to eat, drizzle in the oil and store refrigerated.

Garlic Mayonnaise

Garlic mayonnaise ingredients:
2 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or 1 large egg
1 cup (250 ml) oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold water

Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle until it forms a smooth paste.

Whisk together the garlic paste and egg until well blended.

Add the oil, drop-by-drop, while whisking (after you’ve added 1 tablespoon of oil drop-by-drop, you can add the oil a little faster). Make sure the oil you add is fully incorporated before adding any more.

Once you’ve added ½ cup (125 ml) oil, alternate between gradually adding the oil and lemon juice and continue mixing until fully incorporated.

Add the cold water and mix until smooth and creamy.

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