I love skewering food. (I have also been known to enjoy impaling ridiculous people with a sharp barb or two, but that’s not nice and I shouldn’t brag about it, as my mother will be sure to tell me if she reads this post.) Anyway, food–on-a-stick is great fun to eat. Chicken grilled on a skewer, also known as chicken shish kebab, is easy to make and delicious – a lovely summer dinner with cous cous and green salad.
Years ago a cousin gave me a Moroccan Jewish cookbook with a recipe for barbequed chicken. Maybe recipe is too strong a term for the directions, which include “1 bunch” each of parsley and coriander. I adapted the list of ingredients to work for chicken shish kebab and have used it ever since as my favorite summer chicken dish. For grilling, we use an old Weber kettle with charcoal – nothing fancy. Even a tiny hibatchi grill would do.
Chicken Shish Kebab – 2 servings – Total cost $8.54 for 2 / less than $4.30 per serving
- 2 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 large or 2 small lemons
- approximately ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup parsley, chopped
- ⅓ cup cilantro, chopped
- ⅓ cup chopped onion (I prefer sweet onion – sometimes called Vidalia or Walla Walla), plus another ⅓ – ½ onion cut into half moons or small pieces
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 cutting boards – or use 1 cutting board, first for onion, then for chicken (see safe handling rules for chicken)
- 2 knives – or 1 first for onion, then chicken
- Measuring spoons
- 1/3 cup measuring cup
- Liquid measuring cup
- 3-4 skewers (I use 12” disposable bamboo ones. Re-usable metal ones are fine too.)
- non-reactive dish or pan at least 12 inches in length (to accommodate skewers)
- Squeeze lemon(s) – you should get approximately ¼ cup of lemon juice. Mix the lemon juice with the same amount of olive oil in bowl. The 1-to-1 ratio between lemon juice and olive oil is approximate, as is the exact amount of the total liquid.
- Chop the parsley, cilantro and onion (⅓ cup of each) and add them to the lemon juice and olive oil in the bowl.
Also cut wedges or half-moons of onion and hold them aside to thread between the chunks of chicken on the skewers.
- Add the cumin, salt and pepper to the ingredients already in the bowl, then mix all of those items together.
- Cut the chicken breasts in half or thirds lengthwise (depending on how wide they are), then cut them in the other direction (width-wise), so that you end up with pieces that are approximately 1-2” chunks.
- Thread alternating chicken chunks and half-moon pieces of onion on the skewers, without pushing those ingredients too tightly together. (They can touch, but should not be crowded – space allows them to cook on all sides.)
- Place the skewers in the dish or pan, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably longer. I often prepare the shish kebabs the night before a dinner, so they have marinating almost 24 hours.
It is crucial to refrigerate the marinating meat – it’s not safe to leave it on the counter for a few hours or overnight!
- Preheat the grill, then cook the shish kebabs approximately 10 minutes per side, turning once, on a pre-heated grill. If you use a charcoal grill, make sure you get the coals nice and hot before putting the shish kebabs on to cook. We close the cover (with the vent open) on the grill – you may need to check it a couple of times – the cooking time is dependent on how hot the fire is, and how close the shish kebab skewers are to the fire.
Our grill isn’t fancy, but it works just fine. We use a chimney, not chemicals to start the charcoal fire.