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chicken shawarma

Ingredients

for the shawarma:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (60g)
  • 2 tablespoons baharat (12g)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15g)
  • about 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste (12g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press (10g)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly (200g sliced)
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (1350g)

To serve:

  • Tahini lemon sauce
  • Romaine lettuce, dressed with a sumac lemon dressing, with a few of your favorite veggies (e.g., tomato, cucumber, and green pepper).
  • Lemon wedges
  • Yellow rice (you can make my perfect pot of rice recipe, and add 1 teaspoon turmeric and a small pinch of saffron if you have it).

Instructions

  1. Combine the lemon juice, baharat, olive oil, salt, and garlic.
  2. Toss the onions together with a tablespoon of the marinade until very evenly coated.
  3. Thinly butterfly the chicken thighs (according to the above photos/GIF), and toss together with the rest of the marinade until it’s very evenly coated.*
  4. Preheat the oven to 250° F (121°C) once the chicken is sliced, and lightly oil a 10 to 12-inch ovenproof skillet.
  5. Build a layer of 2-4 slightly overlapping strips of chicken, leaving a border of at least 1 inch between the chicken and the walls of the skillet. Add a layer of onions, followed by another layer of chicken going in the other direction, and continue until all the ingredients are used up. When layering, make sure it doesn’t taper too much as you build upwards, and squish it down every few layers to make sure it’s stable and compact. Hide any scrappy pieces toward the center.
  6. Bake for about 4 1/2 hours, until the chicken is very tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. About once every hour or so, baste the shawarma with the juices collecting around the edges.
  7. Once it’s done, remove the shawarma from the skillet to a cutting board (don’t throw out the juices!) and let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing.
  8. Remove the juices to a small bowl or measuring cup, and allow them to separate for a minute. Rinse out the pan.
  9. Peel off the top of the shawarma, thinly slice it, and then thinly slice off the crispy edges from the shawarma. Set these aside in a bowl (they don’t need to be seared). Thinly slice the rest of the shawarma.**
  10. Heat the empty cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Use a spoon to skim about a tablespoon of the fat off the surface of the reserved juices, and add it to the skillet. Swirl to coat, and then add about 1/3 of the sliced shawarma. Stir it frequently for about 4 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove to a bowl, and repeat with the remaining batches, adding a tiny bit more fat each time (if you run out, switch to olive oil).
  11. Taste the finished shawarma. If it needs more seasoning use some of the juices. Serve with tahini lemon sauce, salad, lemon wedges, and yellow rice.

Notes

* You can make ahead to this point, and let it marinade up to overnight, or you can bake it right away (it makes little difference). If you can’t find boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can debone them yourself, but make sure you buy enough extra to make up for the loss of weight (they should weigh 3 pounds after deboning them).

** You can even make the whole dish ahead up to this point. Cook and slice the shawarma the day before you plan to serve, reserve the juices, and then sear at the last minute. The fat will solidify in the fridge overnight, and the juices will gel, but you can use it just like butter the next day (throw it in the pan and let it melt).