When I mentioned this week's contest (Your Best Use of Lemon, Thyme and a Grill) to my wife, she looked at me and said, "There is no more perfect dish on the planet to enter into this contest than Shish Taouk." And you know what? She was right. This is a dish that she ate ravenously as a child in Lebanon, and it's no surprise why. The freshness of the lemon- and thyme-marinated chicken, the addictive qualities of the toum (garlic sauce), the salty chew of the grilled halloumi, and the spice and sweetness of the peppadews and the grilled lemon make every bite a celebration. We love this served on Syrian bread, but it would also be great alongside some rice or couscous. —Oui, Chef
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Oui, Chef is a father of five who spent two years in France studying the culinary arts.
WHAT: Chicken, vegetables, and halloumi cheese come together with a lemony garlic sauce atop a warm flatbread.
HOW: As grilled chicken marinates in a yogurt-lemon sauce, make a smooth garlic emulsion in the blender. Skewer the chicken, plenty of vegetables, halloumi, and lemon, then cook on the grill. Pile it all on bread, cover in garlic sauce, and dig in.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We’ll take any excuse to use our blender for reasons other than smoothies. Power up your machine to make a creamy sauce flavored with lemon and garlic -- it's the perfect complement to tangy, smoky chicken. Oh yeah, and halloumi cheese. Enough said. —The Editors
For the shish taouk
cloves garlic, finely minced
extra-virgin olive oil
pimentón (smoked paprika)
boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
zucchini, cut into large chunks
blocks of halloumi cheese, cut into large chunks
lemons for grilling, cut into rounds or wedges
rounds of fresh Syrian bread
fresh thyme, finely chopped
For the toum (garlic sauce)
cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Large pinch of kosher salt
large egg white
Small bowl of ice water
Up to 1/2 cup of high-quality mayonnaise
In This Recipe
The night before you want to cook: Mix the first 9 ingredients, from the yogurt to the pimentón, in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into medium-sized chunks, toss in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to grill.
To make the toum (garlic sauce), put the garlic cloves, the salt, and 1/4 of the lemon juice in a blender. Blend on medium speed until the garlic is chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the blender still on medium speed, add the egg white through the feed tube and continue to blend. Add half the oil in a slow, thin stream. At this stage, the emulsification should have taken hold. Switch to a slow blend and slowly add the rest of the lemon juice. Add the rest of the oil in the same fashion.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of ice water while still mixing on low. At this point you should have a sauce with the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Taste for salt and to check the strength of the garlic flavor. If needed, either to thicken the sauce or to cut the raw garlic punch a bit, whisk in up to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Reserve the sauce for dressing your grilled shish taouk.
When's your ready to make the kebabs, preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
Place the onions in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, to parboil the onions. Remove from the heat and rinse with cold water to cool. Peel and discard the skins and and save the onions for grilling.
Take the chunks of halloumi and zucchini, the onions, mushrooms, peppers, and lemon slices and toss them in a bowl. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, then place each ingredient on its own metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers for grilling.
Take the chicken from the fridge and skewer the chunks as you did the veggies. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Grill each skewer until it reaches your desired degree of doneness, remove to a platter, and tent with foil to keep warm until all the skewers are complete.
To serve, place a mix of grilled ingredients on a round of warmed Syrian bread, top with a generous helping of toum, sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme, and squirt with a grilled lemon wedge. Devour at will.
I am a father of five, who recently completed a two year professional hiatus during which I indulged my long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse myself in all things French. I earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin.
About six months ago started "Oui, Chef", which is a food blog that exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my children a few things about cooking, and how our food choices over time effect not only our own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences through the blog, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, cooking healthy meals as a family, passing on established familial food traditions, and perhaps starting some new ones.