A make-at-home version of my favourite takeout meal!
Given my passion for cooking, we rarely order takeout food, but once or twice a year I indulge my constant craving for Shawarma. Typically made with meat that’s been roasted on a spit then shaved off and tucked into pita bread with delicious sauce and other toppings, Shawarma and its close cousins (donairs, gyros and more) are my kind of flavourful fast food. Shawarma is so popular where I live that Ottawa, Ontario has often been referred to as the Shawarma capital of Canada! I’ve developed this recipe based on the seasonings I most enjoy from middle-Eastern cuisine and while it may not exactly resemble your favourite take-out Shawarma, I can assure you that it was a standout hit in our house and something I’ll be making often. There are loads of accessories that would go well with the chicken, onion and potatoes – pita bread, hummus, chopped tomatoes, tabbouleh, toum or garlic sauce (recipe below) and delectable pickled turnip to name just a few. Note that if you like your potatoes extra crispy, you can prepare them per this method then once cooked drizzle with the seasoned oil as indicated below.
- 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds/900 grams)
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly-squeezed lemon juice (2 – 3 lemons)
- 5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
- 1 large red onion, peeled and cut into eighths
- chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Toum (garlic sauce):
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) salt
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) peeled garlic cloves (about 8 medium)
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) ice water
- 2 cups canola oil, chilled
- 24 baby potatoes (or 4 medium sized potatoes)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- At least one hour before cooking (or up to 12 hours ahead of time), marinate the chicken. Combine the lemon juice and seasonings in a small bowl then whisk in the olive oil. Put the chicken pieces in a sturdy food storage bag and drizzle marinade over top. Seal the bag then gently massage the chicken for a minute to evenly coat with spices. Refrigerate until cooking time, flipping bag occasionally.
- Make the toum (garlic sauce) ahead of time. Be sure your canola oil is well-chilled (but still liquid) before you begin. Start by splitting the garlic cloves in half and removing any green cores from the centre. Place the cloves in a food processor with the salt and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) each of the lemon juice and ice water. Process briefly until mixture resembles a smooth paste then stop and scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
- Turn the food processor back on and drizzle the chilled oil through the top as SLOWLY as possible, a half cup (125 mL) at a time. You may find it easiest to rest the spout of your measuring cup against the feed tube opening so you can control the flow of oil.
- After each half cup of oil, scrape down the sides of the work bowl then add another 1 tablespoon (15 mL) each of the lemon juice and cold water. When finished, mixture will have emulsified and should have the texture of a slightly runny mayonnaise (it will thicken when you refrigerate it). Transfer to an airtight container (a 2 cup / 500 mL canning jar works well) and refrigerate for up to a month.
- Potatoes can also be prepared for cooking ahead of time. Wash potatoes and cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces to yield 4 cups (1 L) of cut potatoes. Place cut potatoes in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil. Toss to coat evenly then cover and let sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425F.
- Add the onion pieces to the chicken and marinade in the bag and toss to coat the onion.
- Drizzle about 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet and spread to coat evenly. Transfer the chicken and onion to the greased baking tray (discarding marinade left in the bag) and spread out in a single layer. I find it’s best to put the onion in the middle of the pan and the chicken on the outside edges.
- Transfer prepared potatoes to a second lightly greased baking sheet and spread out in a single layer.
- Roast chicken and onions for 30 – 40 minutes, flipping chicken pieces over halfway through cooking.
- The potatoes will take a little less time to cook so put them in the oven after the chicken has been in for 5 minutes. Roast potatoes for 25 – 30 minutes, tossing occasionally during cooking, until crispy and brown on the outside and tender on the inside.
- While potatoes are roasting, make the seasoning mixture for them put remaining 2 tablespoons (10 mL) of olive oil in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, cook the minced garlic in the oil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cayenne, cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
- Remove chicken and onions from the oven. Allow to rest 2 minutes, then slice chicken into thin strips and place on a platter with the roasted onions.
- While chicken is resting, put roasted potatoes in a broad, shallow bowl. Drizzle with the spiced olive oil and lemon juice mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss again, then garnish with cilantro or parsley. Serve with the roasted chicken and your favourite accompaniments.