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Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

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This recipe is a giant, delicious fake-out.  Considering this shawarma has “oven-roasted” in the recipe title, I am not trying to fool anyone; this is definitely a mock version of authentic chicken shawarma, which is a Middle Eastern style of cooking meat on a vertical spit.  Nonetheless, this recipe is a veritable flavor bomb, which happens to be easy to prepare, and fun to eat.  It is simply marinated boneless skinless chicken thighs that are roasted in a very hot oven, and served with various accompaniments.

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The flavor-packed marinade is the key to success.  I used the recipe from New York Times Cooking as a guide, but I beefed up some of the spice quantities.  The marinade is heavy on garlic and lemon, and robustly seasoned with Middle Eastern spices, including cumin, turmeric, and a touch of cinnamon.  Take a gander at the picture below; the marinade even looks flavorful.  I marinated my chicken for about 6 hours, and it was brimming with flavor.  The chicken was then roasted on a large sheet pan with some quartered red onion.  It is important to use a big enough sheet pan, so that the chicken can fit in one layer.  This will help the chicken get crispy edges, instead of steaming.

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The roasted chicken is then sliced and served with all sorts of delicious condiments and accessories.  The New York Times suggests tomatoes, cucumbers, pita, white sauce, hot sauce, olives, fried eggplant, feta, rice, etc.  I served mine with pita, a quick tzatiki, olives, and feta.  The recipe for the tzatiki is below, and it is probably easier than you think.  I also made a quick tomato and cucumber salad by cutting up some of grape tomatoes and Persian cucumbers, and tossing them with a bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper.  It was a refreshing counterpoint.  However, there really are no bad choices.  Use the olive bar at your grocery store for inspiration.  This was a great meal; the chicken will disappear faster than you think!

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Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma (recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking)

Serves 3-4

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  1. Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Combine the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in a large bowl, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken and marinade to a large ziplock bag. Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours, turning the bag occasionally to distribute the garlic and spices.
  2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 425 degrees. Use the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to grease a rimmed sheet pan. Add the quartered onion to the chicken and marinade, and toss once to combine. Remove the chicken and onion from the marinade, and place on the pan, spreading everything evenly across it.
  3. Put the chicken in the oven and roast until it is browned, crisp at the edges and cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice into bits. Serve with tzatiki, feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, pita, and whatever else appeals to you.

Tzatiki Sauce

Makes about a cup

  • 1 small container Greek yogurt (about 7-8 ounces; use full fat or 2%)
  • 1 small seedless cucumber
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
  • about 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the cucumber.  With very clean hand, squeeze as much water out of the grated cucumber as possible over the sink.  Let drain on a paper towel until the rest of your ingredients are prepared.
  2. Mix all ingredients together, and taste for seasoning.  Add extra lemon or dill, if desired.  If you like things really garlicky, you can add more garlic, but the garlic will get stronger as it sits.

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