I first started cooking Middle Eastern food a few years ago during a few weeks when I decided to see what it would be like to go completely vegan. I ended up doing a lot of falafel sandwiches with tahini sauce and tomato cucumber salad, since they were about the most delicious non-animal food I could find. The veganism didn’t stick (it wasn’t meant to — just an experiment), but some of the recipes I made during the time got incorporated into the regular rotation. Baba ghanouj (eggplant dip), hummus and falafel were relatively easy (although I’m still perfecting the recipes), but I never could figure out a good way to recreate the crispiness and flavor of shawarma in my small apartment, devoid of any huge vertical rotisseries.
I tried once more today, and I think I nailed it — the key to crispy and flavorful crust was using two cast iron skillets, one on top of the other. Similar to some popular chicken-under-a-brick recipes, my method involved getting the bottom (larger) skillet very hot, placing the chicken skin-side down onto the pan, laying a piece of foil over the top, and putting another skillet on top of that to press the meat into the pan. The skin side crisped up very nicely and rendered enough fat into the pan so that when I flipped it skin-side up, the bottom got a nice crust as well. After cooking the whole thigh, I took it out of the pan, cut it off of the bone, and gave the pieces one final sizzle in the fat left in the pan.
Combined with curried grains, a scoop of homemade hummus and an Israeli tomato-cucumber salad, it made a delicious and healthy lunch.
Originally posted July 10th, 2010
Chicken Shawarma Platter with Tomato-Cucumber Salad, Hummus and Curried Grains
- Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
- Lemon pepper
- Olive oil
Liberally season all outside surfaces and underneath the skin of the chicken thigh with lemon pepper and oregano. Rub a small amount of olive oil under skin and on the outsides.
Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Place the chicken, skin-side down, on the ungreased pan surface. Immediately place a folded piece of aluminum foil directly on top of the chicken piece, and place a heavy pan on top of the foil, so that the chicken is pressed down firmly onto the cooking surface. Heat about 7 minutes, or until the skin has a crisp brown exterior and some fat is rendered in the pan.
Flip the thigh and cook the other side in the same way, until it too is browned. Remove the thigh from the pan, cut meat off the bone into small slices, and return the slices to the hot fat in the pan. Cook for a few more minutes to brown the pieces. Remove from heat and serve.
Israeli Cucumber Tomato Salad
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
Dice the tomatoes, sprinkle with kosher salt, and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes in a bowl to extract some of the juice for the dressing. Meanwhile, dice the cucumber, sprinkle with salt, and let sit in a colander over the sink for 30 minutes or so to drain. Rinse off and pat dry the cucumbers, and combine with the tomatoes (with the juice at the bottom of the bowl), red onion and mint. Add the olive oil and the red wine vinegar to taste. Chill before serving.
- 2 cups chickpeas (either canned or cooked dry beans)
- 6 Tbsp tahini
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup water, or cooking liquid from cooked beans
- 1/4 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper Prepare(optional)
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
Whisk together the olive oil and tahini in small bowl.
Add chickpeas to food processor with lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the water or cooking liquid. Turn on machine, and add garlic, pepper and cumin. While it’s running, drizzle the oil/tahini mixture in slowly. Continue to process until the hummus is smooth, adding more water or cooking liquid as necessary. Add salt by large pinches, tasting after each addition. Serve chilled.
Cook grains according to directions. Add honey and curry powder to taste. Serve chilled.