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Mucho Gusto

Chicken Shawarma

From the aesthetically-pleasing whipped coffee, to the new-and-improved tortilla fold, and the infamous baked feta pasta, TikTok is leaving its mark on culinary pop culture. Since we’ve been swapping old-school cookbooks for social media and using scrolling as the new way to savor, I’ve pulled a page from TikTok’s book, taking inspiration from its new obsession with feta cheese for this recipe. 

Feta cheese combines a sharp flavor with a softer texture. While typically produced and purchased in a firm block, feta crumbles easily to make the perfect topping for many Mediterranean dishes. The cheese originates from Greece and continues to be a highly-consumed and produced good in the region. Its salty taste balances more mild dishes and ingredients, such as vegetables. Its use as a garnish never fails to make your meal look top-dollar even with limited prep time. 

After visiting GreCo, a casual Greek restaurant on Newbury Street in Boston, I decided to intertwine my desire to indulge continually in Greek-inspired food and my wish to tackle the feta trend in one recipe. 

Here, I present an easy and undeniably tasty meal wrapped up in my favorite thing: bread. In this dish, warm pita pockets hold shawarma chicken, Mediterranean salad, tzatziki sauce, and—of course—feta cheese. Shawarma is the cooking term used to describe how the meat is stacked on a spit and slowly roasted in a traditional Middle Eastern kitchen. However, this recipe allows for the simpler approach of preparing the chicken on a stove. While not perfectly authentic to the Greek preparation, this meal guarantees to replicate many of the wonderful spicy flavors with ease for anyone new to the kitchen. And not to forget, the feta’s tangy flavor promises to complement the abundance of robust spices, while the creamy tzatziki sauce further mellows the dish. 

Ingredients:

Shawarma Chicken:

2 pounds boneless chicken breast

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mediterranean Chopped Salsa:

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1 small sweet onion, chopped

10-15 Queen stuffed green olives, sliced

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Olive oil to coat

Salt and pepper to taste

Tzatziki Sauce:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons tzatziki spice (can be bought pre-made or made at home with the combination of 2 tablespoons of dill, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste)

4-6 pita pockets

Procedure:

First, cut the boneless chicken breast into thin strips. The strips should be roughly a finger-length long to make for an easy fit into the pita pockets. Next, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, lemon, oil, and spices. Toss the chicken well to be sure it is coated evenly in the mixture. Allow the meat to marinate while you prepare the salad and sauce. 

In a large bowl, combine all the chopped salad ingredients. Add just enough olive oil to coat the vegetables, then season with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt and sour cream, then season with tzatziki spice. 

To cook the chicken, heat a cast-iron skillet until hot. To test if it’s ready, drop a bit of water on it; if the water sizzles, the pan is hot enough. Add a little oil and then some of the chicken to the skillet. It’s important not to overcrowd the pan. Allow the pieces to brown for 1 to 2 minutes before turning them. Because the pieces are thin, they will cook in only 4 to 5 minutes. When the chicken slices are done, transfer them to a bowl to keep warm while you finish cooking the rest of the chicken. 

Next, halve your whole pita breads to create open pockets that can deliciously and effectively carry the chicken and Mediterranean salad. Once halved, lightly warm the pita pockets in a skillet. Place the chicken in the opening of the halved pita pockets with the salad and tzatziki sauce. Garnish the top of your open pita pockets with crumbled feta cheese, serve, and enjoy!

Cover photo courtesy of Blue Jean Chef

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