Chicken Shawarma with Tangy Tzatziki
a Detroit classic with the option of classic toum & cucumber yogurt sauce.
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If you didn’t know by now, Detroit runs through my bloodstream. Metro Detroit is home to the largest and oldest Muslim and Arab communities so we’re lucky to be able to indulge in so many great Middle Eastern dishes. And then, if you travel across the Detroit river and into Canada you’ll also find some of the best shawarmas in Windsor and Toronto. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t share my go-to shawarma recipe with you all. Shawarma describes the Middle Eastern technique of cooking conical blocks of chicken, lamb, and beef on metal spits such as rotisserie cooking. Thin layers of the meat are shaved off and served on a plate, pita, or other fresh bread and served with Turkish pickles & turnips, tomatoes, and onions. The most important, in my opinion, is the sauce- you can use toum, which is a garlic emulsion, or tzatziki, a garlic and cucumber Greek yogurt sauce.
To make toum, I take 4.5 ounces of garlic, split it in half, and remove the green portion in the middle called the germ. This creates a bitter taste and forms as the garlic clove ages. I take the split garlic, and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and process it in the food processor until it is finely minced. Then, I add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and process until it becomes a smooth paste. Next, I take 3 cups of olive oil and add 1/2 cup of the oil and 1 more tablespoon of lemon juice. Next, you’ll add 1/2 cup of oil and 1 tablespoon of oil until it is all gone. In the end, you should have a smooth emulsion of garlic, fat, and acid to create a creamy garlic sauce or Toum.
1 cup garlic cloves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tbsp ice water
3 cups olive oil
Tzatziki is very easy to make. You will need 1 to 2 cucumbers grated and allowed to dry out using a paper towel or cheesecloth (recommended), 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, grate 2 garlic cloves, 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt, and chop 1 tablespoon of dill and mint. Add everything to a bowl with 1 cup of the thickest whole-fat Greek yogurt you can find and you’re done! Be sure to draw out as much liquid from the cucumbers as possible to keep the consistency.
Shawarma Seasoning Blend:
2 tbsp Ground Cumin
2 tbsp Smoked Paprika
¾ tsp Ground Nutmeg
¾ tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp of Ground Oregano
¾ tsp of Ground Turmeric
2 tbsp Ground Black Pepper
¼ tsp of Cayenne Pepper
Salt, about 1 tbsp
What to Do:
I used two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe.
We will marinate the chicken with ¼ cup of olive oil, the juice from one lemon, 2 tbsp agave nectar, and 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar.
Next, add the shawarma seasoning blend we created and massage it into the chicken thighs. When I have it on hand, I like to add ¼ cup of greek yogurt and allow the thighs to marinate for 2 to 24 hours. This same technique can be used for steak or lamb.
Sear chicken thighs on medium-high heat until fully cooked within or reached 160F. I like to create just a little char to give it that true shawarma feels like I’m in Toronto.
I like to allow the chicken thighs to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat. Cutting right away would allow the juice to spill out on your cutting board making the meat less juicy.
Serve your chicken shawarma with Persian cucumbers, radishes, toum, lettuce, and sliced Roma tomatoes. And don’t forget to tag me at elle.thefoodie!