Fire it up: Grilled Moroccan chicken skewers

If there is one thing I revel in during my travels is visiting the open markets. Nothing comes close to encapsulating the soul of any city as taking a stroll through the meandering corridors of an old market. While at times it can be a bit chaotic, it is a multi-sensory and visceral experience that genuinely defines the pulse of the town.
I particularly gravitate towards the vibrant spice markets where I can literally lose myself for hours at a time, while getting to know the local flavors by trying as much of the street food as I possibly can.  

spices2
Spice market in Istanbul.

spices1

chickens
Local street delicacies rotisseried right on the spot. Marché d’Aligre, Paris.

Moroccan food is complex, extremely fragrant, and like Thai food, it is completely unique. And if I had to chose a word that can adequately capture Moroccan cuisine, it would be spice. For this particular recipe I made a marinade of a mix of dry spices combined with herbs, alliums, lemon, and ginger. 

The Marinade

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ¼ tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tbsp cayenne pepper
  • Minced garlic – 3 cloves
  • 2 tbsp of minced shallot
  • 2 tbsp of minced ginger
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ⅓ cup of chopped parsley, oregano, and thyme
  • 2 tbsp of minced preserved lemon (optional)

spices

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, except for the chicken, before mixing thoroughly. 

lemon

Cut the chicken breasts into thick cubes and add to the marinade, while combining with your hands. I let the chicken soak in the flavors for about 2 hours, but if marinading for longer (say 6 hours, which I highly recommend) only add the lemon at the very end. This way the acidity of the lemon doesn’t “cook” the protein.  
Alternatively, you can also use this marinade with turkey, rabbit, or even pork.

chicken_marinade

For the side dishes, I dusted up some tomatoes with a za’atar blend, which I also used to brush the corn with after whisking it with some melted butter. While I was preparing the accompaniments, I fired up the coals and let the skewers and corn husks sit in water so they don’t burn with the direct heat.

tomatoes

The asparagus where coated with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and lime rind. When the asparagus were done, I sprinkled them with some grated parmigiano reggiano.

asparagus
Tip: Shave the exterior of the white asparagus as it can be a bit fibrous once cooked. 

Once skewered, you’ll want to place the chicken on direct, but not intense heat. Leave on for about 5 minutes per side, while brushing with the marinade until the interior hits the right temperature. It is easy to overcook the chicken, so try to keep a close eye while manning the grill. 

mop

chicken_morrocan

And there you have it, a quick and delicious meal packed with bold flavors.

finished

: Jaime

2 comments

  • Hola! Going to lost lake this weekend and am going to make this…so excited.
    Cheers from your favorite wine bar owner!

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