Sitting on a beautiful veranda overlooking Taksim Square in Istanbul, the Turkish kebabs could not have tasted better. Accompanied by mezze and beautiful Turkish salads, it was truly a feast to remember.
Upon returning to the US, I reminisced about those flavors and adapted a famous Turkish recipe to create my own Turkish Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper (see below). Moist, tangy and bookended with sweet red onions, they brought me back to Istanbul.
Although many think of kebabs as simply meat on a stick, the art of kebaplar (as it’s referred to in Turkey) is quite developed. Having originated in Turkey and later spread throughout the Middle East, Kebab is the general term used to describe small pieces of meat, threaded on to skewers and grilled (broiled) or roasted. With dozens of types of kebabs in existence, it is the perfect canvas for creating your own recipe.
In my recipe below, I first grill the kebabs to add color (because, remember COLOR=FLAVOR) and then roast them in the oven until they’re cooked through. Using this as background information on the Kebab’s basic ingredients and technique, how might you make your own recipe? What if you:
- Vary the meat? Beef, lamb, pork and even fish would work beautifully.
- Mix up the vegetables? Try peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes or even fruit!
- Diversify the flavors? For a Persian version, add saffron. For an Indian twist, add curry powder and tamarind paste. For a Greek version, add oregano and mint and serve with tzatziki. And for an Asian adaptation, skip the yogurt and marinate in peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger. You get the idea…
Turkish Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper*
- 2 tbsp – Aleppo pepper
- 1 cup – Greek-style yogurt
- 3 tbsp – Olive oil
- 2 tbsp – Red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp – Tomato paste
- 2 tsp – Kosher salt
- 1 tsp – Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 – Garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)
- 2 – Lemons (unpeeled and sliced into rounds)
- 2 – Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless & sliced into 1 ½ inch cubes)
- 1 – Red onion (cut into 2 inch slices to thread onto the skewers)
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Mix in 1 tbsp warm water to the Aleppo pepper
- Add yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, garlic and lemon slices and mix well
- Add chicken and coat with mixture – cover and chill for at least 1 hour (ideally overnight)
- Preheat oven to 400° and preheat grill (or grill pan)
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Thread chicken and red onion onto wooden (pre-soaked to avoid burning) or metal skewers alternating between chicken and onion
- Sprinkle each skewer with salt, pepper and additional Aleppo pepper
- Brush grill rack with oil and place skewers on the grill for a few minutes on each side – long enough to mark both sides with grill marks
- Transfer skewers onto the baking sheet and finish cooking them in the oven until the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 165° (use a probe thermometer)
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and serve over rice
*Adapted from a recipe by Chef Musa Dagdeviren