As it spread along ancient trade routes, the Middle Eastern tradition of skewering and grilling cubes of meat sparked incarnations from Indonesian satay to Japanese yakitori. Rich with local seasoning, the various styles conveyed their own sense of place down to the bamboo rods or long pieces of flat metal rotated above the flame. For the modern cook, they offer distinct advantages. Small pieces of meat cook quickly, allowing dinner to be on the table in a snap. In the heart of winter, or anytime a grill is not available, the high heat of an oven does the trick beautifully.
This recipe highlights the savory and smoky end of the red pepper spectrum. Yogurt serves as the base for a marinade that tenderizes the chicken and stays put to create a rich tint that deepens as it cooks. Allow the meat to rest overnight, and then forget about it until you start getting hungry. When you’re ready for dinner, a backyard grill-fest, or game day snacks, food will be on the table in about 15 to 20 minutes.
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
⅓ cup pieces of jarred, marinated sweet red peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground oregano
½ teaspoon salt same
3 garlic cloves, minced
One of the most common questions about cooking chicken is how to make it less bland and boring, as its versatility does not equate with flavor. For midweek meals, some advance preparation goes a long way toward solving the problem. An overnight rest in the proper marinade allows you to infuse flavor without having to make a pan sauce or dedicate the time to a slowly cooking roast. If you’re on the fence about taking the time to begin prepping dinner the night before, just think about how easy clean up will be tomorrow.
Begin by making the marinade. Combine all the ingredients except for the chicken breast and yogurt in a food processor or blender until well-processed. Add red pepper mixture to the yogurt in a small bowl and set aside.
Next cut the chicken into pieces no larger than 1 ½ inches each. Place in a plastic bag or bowl, cover with marinade, and toss to make sure pieces are well-coated. Seal bag or cover bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the chicken cubes to marinate in the refrigerator overnight to develop the best flavor.
When the chicken is ready, thread the cubes onto skewers. Wedges of red onion and other vegetable pieces that cook relatively quickly can be alternated with the meat. The kebabs can be grilled or cooked on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a 500 degree oven. Allow for 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time, making sure to turn the skewers at the halfway point.
Serve on their own or with a variety of sauces such as yogurt or sweet chili.