Chicken Kabobs with Lemon & Thyme
By Wolfgang Puck
Grilling season is in full force! I know this all too well, because people are already asking me for easy ideas that will help them create something new, different, delicious, and impressive when they cook outdoors.
One excellent strategy is to make kabobs. Cut into bite-sized or slightly larger chunks and threaded onto metal, wood, or bamboo skewers, food cooks quickly and evenly on the grill. Kabobs, a Middle Eastern term now used almost worldwide, also enable you to get creative, combining a variety of ingredients -- proteins along with fresh vegetables or even fruits -- in single, beautiful portions that offer a medley of different flavors, textures, and colors. And they're so quick and simple to assemble, helping you look like a creative grill chef with hardly any effort at all.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are among the easiest meats to use for kabobs. It's a quick job to cut them into the chunks for the skewer, and their mild flavor welcomes a wide range of herbs and spices. You can alternate the chicken pieces on their skewers with such customary vegetables as pieces of onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms, all cut to the same approximate size as the meat; or get creative, as I do in the accompanying recipe, and skewer wedges of lemon, which add their own zesty flavor to the kabobs and can be squeezed warm over the chicken before you eat it. The recipe works well with shrimp, scallops, fish fillets, or any other tender meat such as beef steak, lamb, or pork.
Whatever you put on the skewer, be sure to leave small gaps between the pieces so that the grill's heat can penetrate for quicker, more even cooking. I like to use metal skewers that have flattened blades, which prevent the food pieces from spinning around when you're trying to turn them. Alternatively, you can pass two thinner parallel skewers through the food to keep them stable. If you use bamboo or wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading on the food, so the skewers will be less likely to burn on the grill.
I like to serve this Chicken Kabobs with Lemon & Thyme Recipe on top of some sort of salad to soak up their juices. Mixed baby greens work well. But if you want to make an even bigger impression on your guests, try a quick salad based on instant couscous, the popular North African grain-shaped pasta, available in most well-stocked supermarkets. You can make the salad up to a day ahead of time, letting it come back to room temperature before serving. Then, spread it on a platter and arrange all the grilled kabobs on top to make a really big impression.
Chicken Kabobs with Lemon & Thyme Recipe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
2 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
In medium nonreactive bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Place in large, heavy-duty sealable plastic food-storage bag.
Using a fork, pierce each chicken breast all over several times to help the marinade penetrate. Cut each chicken breast into 8 large, equally sized chunks. Put the marinade mixture in the plastic bag; add the chicken, seal the bag, and move the pieces around to coat them thoroughly. Put the bag in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
Preheat the grill. Meanwhile, thread the chicken chunks onto 8 skewers, including a lemon wedge in the middle of each skewer.
Grill the kabobs until the chicken is nicely brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, turning the kabobs once. Serve on a bed of Couscous Salad (recipe follows).
Couscous Salad Recipe
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups good-quality canned chicken broth
10 ounces dry instant couscous
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 small red onion, cut into small dice
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1 red bell pepper, halved, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and cut into small dice
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.
Put the couscous in a large, heatproof bowl. Stir in the salt and cinnamon. Pour the boiling broth over the couscous, stir briefly, cover the bowl, and leave it at room temperature for 5 minutes. Uncover the bowl and, with a table fork, fluff the couscous to separate its grains. Leave it to cool completely to room temperature.
In another large bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper, and green onions. Add the cooled couscous and toss until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve at room temperature.
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