Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Turkish Chicken Yogurtlu Kebobs and Cauliflower Salad

Sometime last fall Alex and I tried a Turkish restaurant called Peri Ela on the Upper East Side based on a recommendation from a friend.  The food there was pretty good, but my absolute favorite dish that we had there that evening was a dish called yogurtlu chicken adana (which the menu described as "spicy ground chicken, sliced and served over yogurt-garlic and pita bread").  I was essentially picturing a wrap/open-faced sandwich or pizza of some sort, but it was so much better than that.  The pita bread was toasted and cut or torn into large croutons and then topped with spicy chicken kebobs, onions and peppers and a garlicky-yogurt sauce.  The croutons soaked up the juices from the chicken kebobs and the sauteed onions and and peppers but still retained some of their crunch and texture.  The chicken kebobs themselves were nice and flavorful.  It was totally spicy, creamy and delicious.  Sunday afternoon I picked up some Turkish bread from Zabars and immediately starting thinking about trying to recreate that yogurtlu chicken adana with the bread.  Seeing as I am far from an expert on Turkish food I tried to find a recipe to follow online but I couldn't find any.  I found plenty of lamb or beef kebob yogurtlu recipes but nothing with chicken.  So I decided to just make something up.  I always like  yogurt-marinated chicken so step 1 was marinating the chicken in labneh, herbs and spices.  Step 2 really winging it since I couldn't find a really good recipe to follow.  We did take inspiration from the various lamb or beef kebob yogurtlu recipes but from that point we basically threw in whatever ingredients seemed to make sense. 

Given that I basically had no idea what I was doing here, I thought the end result was surprisingly successful.  The chicken itself was my least favorite part (next time I will tweak the marinade to make it more flavorful or make chicken adana), but the pide soaked in the tomato sauce and yogurt sauce was pretty delicious.  While we were eating Alex and I both came to the conclusion that next time we might want to cook the chicken 90% of the way and then add the bread, chicken and tomato sauce to a shallow casserole or baking dish and throw it in the oven for a few minutes.  I think that way the bread will absorb more flavor and the dish will just meld together a little better.  Even if I don't bake the combined dish in the oven, I will serve the dish in shallow bowl or baking dish because serving it on a plate is just asking for trouble.  As Alex and I tried to toss the bread, chicken and sauces all together it was a battle to keep everything on the plate and not fling chicken, etc. everywhere.  While our execution wasn't perfect, the flavors were pretty good.  I thought the combination of the tangy-ness from the yogurt sauce, the sweetness and slight smoky flavor from the tomato sauce and the heat from the cayenne in the butter sauce worked really nicely together.  I was worried that the cauliflower salad would be too heavy/dense to serve with the kebobs but it was surprisingly light.  I really liked the lemony dressing, which was bright and fresh but not too acidic.  I also liked the slight hint of heat of the crushed red pepper flakes.

Recipes after the jump!

Turkish Chicken Yogurtlu Kebobs

For chicken:
4 small or 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup labneh or plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 tsp mint, minced
1/2 tsp salt

For tomato sauce:
1 tbsp evoo
1/2 small red onion, minced 
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp ground cumin
For yogurt sauce:
1 cup labneh or plain yogurt, at room temperature (if you use labneh you will need to additional lemon juice or other liquid to loosen the yogurt - if you use regular yogurt you can cut back on some amounts)
2 garlic cloves, minced and pasted with salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp evoo
For garnish:
1 tbsp butter
ground sumac
4 pides, cut or torn into bite sized pieces and toasted in the oven
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, minced

Place chicken in a large bowl.  Add lemon juice and toss to coat.  Whisk yogurt, garlic, ginger, paprika, mint and salt in a separate bowl.  Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

About 30 minutes before you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature.
Preheat broiler in the oven.  Broil chicken kebobs (either on skewers or otherwise) about 6 inches from the broiler until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Heat a saute pan over moderately-low heat.  Add evoo.  Once the oil warms, add the red onions.  Saute the onions until softened, but not browned, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and ground cumin and simmer, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  Season to taste with s&p.

Meanwhile, whisk the yogurt sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Season with additional salt and lemon juice to taste.

Place toasted pide pieces in shallow bowls or baking dishes and spoon tomato sauce over the top.  Arrange the kebabs on top and drizzle with yogurt sauce.  Melt the butter in a small pan and add in cayenne and sumac. When the the butter starts bubbling, pour over the chicken.  Garnish with parsley.

Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Salad (Karnabahar Salatasi)
Available on Binnur's Turkish Cookbook  

1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Crushed pepper, as you like
For Dressing:
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, mashed with salt
1 pinch sugar

Boil the florets for about 8-10 minutes in the water with salt in a medium sized pot. Drain and place them in a salad bowl. Whisk all the dressing ingredients. Immediately pour all over them. Sprinkle the parsley and crushed pepper, toss. Wait until it cools down.

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