Yogurt and Coriander Chicken Kebabs
What a sad state of affairs it was. How could we let this happen? The shame, the sorrow and utter sense of loss and regret.
After a good long life, our hardworking barbecue had finally had enough. When the ignition switch blew two years ago, the grill politely suggested that a long necked lighter would suffice. When the knobs fell off one after another, it stood struggling but proud as we gouged away with screwdrivers, puffing out smoke and refusing to let go. However, when the grates started to corrode, peppering otherwise flavorful burgers with little bits of charred rust, I knew it was time to let go. It was a good grill, a good friend, and a long serving companion.
Except for the time that I almost singed my face off when lighting it. That wasn’t so cool.
Alright, and maybe I still harbor a grudge about the flank steak that it only cooked on the left side. Even after I flipped it, and the heat apparently moved over to the right grate out of spite.
Even so, look at this old and weather-worn face. Tell me that you wouldn’t shed just a single tear when you had to say goodbye?
Yeah, okay, so I didn’t really shed a tear. I kind of whooped, leaped around a few times and loudly proclaimed it to be, “MOTHERLOVIN‘ GRILL BUYIN’ TIME!!” Now that we actually have a grill that heats relatively evenly, turns on with the touch of a button, and goes from cold to whoaholyhellthatshot in about five minutes, life is worth grilling again.
This is a simple kebab that we make variations of all the time in the summer, because it requires little in terms of ingredients and only about 5 minutes of preparation before getting tucked in the fridge over night. The yogurt marinade keeps the meat mercifully juicy, an oft difficult feat for chicken kebabs, and provides buckets of flavor without a lot of fat. Speaking of flavor, you probably know me by now. Clearly, when it says “yogurt and coriander”, the garlic and lemon are already implied.
Yogurt and Coriander Chicken Kebabs
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lb/900 g)
- 1/2 cup natural yogurt *
- 1 lemon (2 tsp zest + juice of whole)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp ground coriander **
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pinch hot chili flakes, optional
* A tangy natural yogurt with active bacteria will yield better flavor, or homemade is best, if you have it. Do try to stay away from fat free plain yogurt, which may be (just barely) adequate on your breakfast muesli, but has too many stabilizers and fillers to justify the utter absence of flavor.
** Ground coriander loses it’s flavor quite quickly, so try to buy small amounts of the spice, keep the jar tightly sealed and throw it out when it gets old and you don’t immediately smell that sultry, savory aroma.
Dollop the yogurt into a relatively small mixing bowl. Finely mince or crush the garlic and add it to the bowl along with the lemon zest and juice. Measure in the coriander and cumin before seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. I like to use about 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, but it’s really up to you. Stir the marinade contents together.
If you like, here’s a great time to be creative. Feel like a bit of Indian flair? Stir in some cayenne and a bit of grated or ground ginger. More Malaysian? Add a half teaspoon or more of turmeric, a whisk of honey and a glug of coconut cream. Feeling more mid than east? Add a tablespoon of tomato paste and a dash of allspice, you’re almost in shish taouk territory. Dress it up, dress it down, or leave well enough alone. It’s kind of a struggle to make these skewers taste bad.
Trim off any excess fat or nastiness (veins, sinew, whatever. You know what I mean) from the chicken and cut it into bite even bite sized cubes about 1.5″ wide.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and gently massage it into the meat. Leave the chicken to marinate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours, in a sealed plastic freezer bag or a covered non-reactive container.
To assemble the kebabs, shake some of the marinate off the chicken and thread the pieces onto skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, don’t forget to soak them in cool water for at least 30 minutes to slow down the burn. I like to alternate each piece of chicken with a fat stump of green onion, and divide the meat into sections with a few wedges of green onion that are roughly the size of the meat. However, play this as you will. You can just thread on chicken if you wish, or you can alternate the meat with plenty of vegetables (zucchini, peppers, red onion, tomato and mushroom come to mind) if you want to stretch the skewers to feed more people.
Turn your grill up to medium high heat and cook the chicken kebabs over direct heat, turning ever 3-4 minutes when the chicken is charred enough to easily release from the grates. After about 12 minutes when you have nice grill marks and the chicken is cooked all the way through, let the chicken rest, tented in tinfoil, for a few minutes before serving.
These kebabs are great eaten right off the skewer as-is, but th
Yogurt marinades always yield such plump, juicy meats and add a lot of flavor to a dish. Even chicken, which I think of as the Polyfilla of meats, is succulent and flavorful after a little snuggle in yogurt and spice.
These kebabs are delicious as-is, but I like them served on some fresh grilled flatbread with a side of eggplant and some briny black olives. If you like something a bit saucy, garlicky tzatziki, roasted smoky tomato salsa or even a light slather of harissa on the bread are all great choices. Dressed up or dressed down, these simple chicken kebabs are sinfully easy to make with only a few ingredients, but flavorful enough to serve at your next backyard bash.