Avengers’ Special: Chicken Shawama and Pita Bread

Well, it’s certainly been a long time since I’ve posted anything here.  I didn’t realize just how long!  GAH!  Bad Geek Girl.  But grad school this semester still kept me busy, and even though I cooked, I didn’t cook near enough to really get photos or anything.  Well, hopefully that will change!

So, I’ve seen Avengers.  Of course, I have.  What kind of a Geek Girl would I be if I hadn’t?  In fact, one of my best friends, Rebecca, who runs Black Mood Craft, rode the Amtrak down from her nest in Chicago to come see Avengers with my roommate Kass, whose blog is The Tyger’s Playground, and me, and we had a fantastic weekend of it.  Well, if you’ve seen the movie, then you know about the Infamous Shawarma mention that Tony Stark makes after plummeting back down to the earth as well as the actual even more Infamous After All The Credits Were Through Shawarma Scene:

In fact, the response to the comment in the movie and this scene was so huge that pretty much, Avengers has boosted the shawarma industry.

Now that I’m all about learning to cook Middle Eastern/Indian/Mediterranean food, I knew I had to get my hands on a good shawarma recipe.  I’ve eaten chicken shawarma at three places — the now closed Aladdin’s in Corpus Christi, Texas, Cedars here in San Marcos, Texas, and Pasha’s (Kass got the chicken shawarma plate while I had the gyro plate) in San Antonio, Texas.  All of it was good, every single place.  So, I’ve been searching high and low for a good recipe for this amazing Captain America-Tony Stark-Thor, God of Thunder-Natasha Romanov-Bruce Banner-Clint Barton Approved food.  I’m serious; once you’ve eaten it once, you’ll dream about it.  You’ll crave it.

At first, all of the recipes that I found called for “curry powder” as one of its main ingredients.  After learning a while back and curries come in all different flavors, colors and spice combinations, I opted to stop buying the generic “curry powder” and start using the individual spices for each type of curry dish.  I was about to give up on finding a good recipe for shawarma when my friend Rachel came to my tastebuds’ rescue and sent me the one I tried tonight.  It was simple to put together, and I marinaded the chicken for about 14 hours before cooking it.

Along with making shawarma from scratch, Rachel also found a pita recipe for me to try because I don’t particularly like store bought pita (store bought naan bread is fantastic, however).  So I’m also giving the recipe for pita.

*

Chicken Shawarma

CHICKEN & MARINADE

2 lg. (1.25 lbs) chicken breasts

1/2 cup plain yogurt (note: do NOT use fat free yogurt like I did.  The consistency is wrong & it doesn’t come out very creamy at all.)

1 Tbsp minced garlic (note: Use fresh garlic and not the dried minced garlic like I did.  Flavor will be stronger.)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground cumin

STEP 1: In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade (yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon, oregano, salt, nutmeg, and clove). Add chicken to the marinade, coat well, cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours. If desired, slice the chicken into strips before marinating to maximize the flavor.

STEP 2: After marinating the chicken, grill until cooked.

*

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey

1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (or until your hands get tired). If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

(The purpose of kneading is to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to break down the flour so that the dough will become stretchy and elastic and rise well in the oven. A simple hand kneading technique is to firmly press down on the dough with the palm of your hand, fold the dough in half toward you like you are closing an envelope, rotate the dough 90 degrees and then repeat these steps, but whatever technique you are comfortable using should work.)

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. I use canola spray oil, but you can also just pour a teaspoon of oil into the bowl and rub it around with your fingers. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape. *As you can see, my dough balls didn’t exactly…make balls.  It was really sticky dough, so I’m not sure what exactly I didn’t do right to get them to form into rounds.  I need to practice on this.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

If you have a spray bottle in the kitchen, spray a light mist of water onto your baking surface and close the oven for 30 seconds. Supposedly this step reduces the blistering on the outside of your pitas. I’ve skipped it many times in the past and still been pleased with my breads, so if you don’t have a bottle handy it isn’t a big deal.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.

This pita recipe can be found at The Fresh Loaf (where I just copied the recipe into here but with my photos).

And here are my chicken shawarma pitas with some homemade Moroccan tea.  Even though I definitely need to work on this recipe quite a bit, it was still extremely tasty (definitely had all the right flavors, so I must have done something right!), and I sure as hell won’t mind improving this over and over and over.

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