Every Sunday morning, I sit down in front of my steaming cappuccino and plan my menu for the week. It's a piece of my week that I look forward to. Typically, I'm overwhelmed with ideas thanks to my daily Facebook feed of bloggers, but every once in a while I get stumped -- and it is typically when I get to the word chicken.
Chicken breasts can get quite blah after a while. Plus, considering it is the only animal protein (other than fish and eggs) that I allow in the house, I have to be creative!
On one of those Sunday mornings, I chose to sip my cappuccino in front of the TV as I watched a riveting episode of the Shahs of Sunset, a guilty pleasure of mine. It just so happened that in the latest installment of the Shahs, they were sitting around an ornately decorated table in the reunion special. And as they threw one jab after another at each other, I was distracted by the gorgeous food on the table. Yellow rice. Grilled meats. Yogurt sauce. This all reminded me how very much I love Persian cuisine.
In the summer, I frequently grill up chicken tawook very similar to Azita's joojeh kebob. The yogurt gives the chicken a perfectly delicate texture and a slightly tangy flavor. It's fantastic on the grill.
But of course I found a way to improve this.
I used a yogurt marinade along with lots of garlic, onions, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I also added some gorgeous saffron that gives this dish a distinct yellow color.
Saffron is really pricey, but fortunately you will only need a few threads. And Costco recently started carrying it for a nice price. If you cannot find saffron, you can cheat and add some turmeric to the mix instead to give it a nice color. 1 tablespoon or so will do.
Saffron Yogurt and Garlic Marinated Chicken
2 pounds of chicken breast cut in half so they are thinner (you can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs but use 3 pounds)
1½ cups of yogurt
8 garlic cloves
1 large onion peeled and cut in half
½ a cup of water
8 threads of saffron steeped in a ¼ cup of water or 1 tbsp of turmeric
a handful of cilantro
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons of butter
more olive oil for frying
1. Before adding the saffron to the chicken, you have to steep it like a tea in hot water. It will start to release it's beautiful golden color.
2. Place yogurt, water, garlic, onion, saffron or turmeric, cilantro and lemon into a blender or a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste for salt and pepper and add as necessary.
3. Place chicken cutlets into a sealable bag and add yogurt mixture on top.
4. Close the bag and swish the mixture around so everything is evenly covered. Let stand for 60 minutes to 24 hours.
5. Place butter and olive oil into a pan, ensuring that the butter melts.
6. Over medium heat, fry the chicken on one side for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.
7. At this point, you can either turn over the chicken and cook on the other side or place into a 450-degree oven for 5 minutes.
8. If grilling, cut the chicken into large cubes and marinate. Then place on skewers and allow for it to grill for 6 minutes on each on a high flame.