Ginger-Curry Grilled Chicken Kebabs

This recipe was included in the “Tuesday Nights” column of Milk Street magazine. Kebabs are a big procedure on a Tuesday night! 😉 Although the time commitment was misleading, the finished dish was absolutely worth all of the work.

We ate the kebabs with brown Basmati rice, warm naan, and Greek Tzatziki. They could alternatively be served with a drizzle of plain yogurt. The kebabs are an adaptation of mishkaki, grilled skewers of marinated meat from the islands of Zanzibar. According to the article, the islands’ cuisine is a fusion of Persian, Portuguese, and Arabic from the people that once colonized or settled in the area.

This recipe was adapted from “Feast: Food of the Islamic World” by Anissa Helou, via Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street magazine, contributed by Courtney Hill. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 T grapeseed or other neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
  • 1 T finely grated fresh ginger
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (see Note)
  • 1 medium red, orange or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  1. Trim the chicken and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oil, tomato paste, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Add the chicken and mix, rubbing the seasonings into the meat, until evenly coated.
  4. Marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you prepare the grill or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (I marinated it for about 3 hours.)
  5. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute evenly over the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
  6. While the grill heats, thread the chicken, alternating with the pepper and onion pieces, onto 6 to 9 metal skewers.
  7. Place the skewers on the pre-heated grill. Cook without disturbing until lightly charred on the bottom and the meat releases easily from the grill, 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Flip the skewers and cook, turning every few minutes, until charred all over and the chicken is no longer pink when cut into, another 8 to 9 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a platter and serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

Note: Don’t worry if the cut pieces of chicken are irregularly shaped. As long as they’re similarly sized, shape isn’t important. Don’t crowd the skewers on the grill grate. Allow some space between them so heat circulates and the chicken cooks quickly and without steaming.

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