Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chicken Burrah Kabab

My son graduates so we throw him a small backyard affair for his friends. The table is laden with foods that are Rehan's favorites. From childhood to present times, this child has remained faithful to certain meat-centric dishes, which he eats with gusto. Beef frankies have top billing. Kheema dogs are next, vying with chicken kababs for second place. The first two are easy to put together. Kababs are a longer story.

Having made these heavily spiced kababs before, I know it takes two marinades to develop that distinct taste. Shauna painstakingly cleans and cubes an enormous amount of boneless skinless chicken thighs. Thighs work best as they roast well, staying juicy and moist. Breasts tend to turn dry as they cook. Not my choice, but they might be yours, so go ahead. They are first coated with garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice, salt and mustard oil. They sit in the fridge for about an hour before I add more chile and cumin powder, garam masala, yogurt, dried fenugreek and more mustard oil. Two additions of mustard oil you might ask? Nothing else will suffice, as this oil has a taste all of its own. The first marinade allows the chicken to absorb the strong flavors and the second marinade stays long enough to impart flavor to the outer coating. Thoroughly mixed, I let the chicken sit in the fridge overnight. The longer it marinates, the more flavorful the kababs will be.

The morning of the lunch I soak a bunch of skewers in water. Metal skewers are the best choice as they hold up well on the grill. But we haven't enough, hence the wooden ones. Then comes the laborious task of skewering. Red onion and green peppers are cut into small chunks. The skewer begins with onion or green pepper, followed by chicken, pepper, chicken and ending with onion. I like to begin and end with the veggies. It's a personal choice. Do what suits you. There is no wrong way. The grill is fired up. Skewers are lightly sprayed with oil and laid on the grill. Cook them over a medium heat. Chicken takes a while to cook so take your time. Slow and low allows the kababs to develop an even char. Once they are done, squeeze some lime on them and partake of your labors.

Serves 4-6 or makes 8-10 skewers

2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
3 teaspoons Garlic paste
3 teaspoons Ginger paste
1 teaspoon Chile powder
2 tablespoons Lime juice
3 tablespoons Mustard Oil
4 tablespoons Garam masala
1 teaspoon Cumin powder 
1/2-1 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 cup whole or 2% Yogurt 
2 teaspoons Dried Fenugreek or Kasuri Methi
2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
2 teaspoons Mustard Oil 
1 large Red Onion
2 Green Peppers 
Wooden or Metal Skewers
Lime slices

Chop thighs into 2 x 2 inch pieces. Wash and pat dry. Place thighs in a glass bowl.

Add garlic and ginger paste, chile powder, lime juice and 3 tablespoons of mustard oil to chicken. Rub spices into chicken. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Take thighs out of the fridge and add chile powder, garam masala, cumin powder, yogurt, kasuri methi, salt and additional mustard oil. Use your hands to massage spices into chicken. Or gloves.

Cover and return to the fridge. Let chicken sit overnight for best results.

Take chicken out of the fridge an hour before grilling so it comes to room temperature.

Soak wooden skewers for an hour in water. 

Chop onion and peppers into 2 inch chunks. Keep the chunks large as you want them to keep their shape as they grill.

Start by threading an onion chunk onto the skewer. Follow it up by two pieces of chicken, a green pepper piece, two pieces of chicken and end with onion. 

Heat a gas grill till it is about 500F. (See NOTES below for other ways to cook the chicken)

Spray skewers with oil before laying them spray side down on the grill. 

Cook chicken on a medium setting for about 8-10 minutes on one side. Spray chicken and then flip skewers and cook for another 7-8 minutes. 

Heap skewers on a platter and serve with lime slices.

For an easier serving style, pull chicken off the skewers and mound on a platter. Arrange lime slices around chicken.



Chicken skewers could be cooked on a charcoal grill, a tandoor or the oven.  The timing is the same for a charcoal grill and tandoor. Cook chicken skewers in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. You could finish the skewers by broiling them for a few minutes to get the charred look.

Mustard oil has a very distinctive flavor and is essential to the kababs. You could use olive or canola oil in place if you cannot find it, but the flavor will be different. It is available at Indian or specialty grocery stores.

Dried fenugreek or kasuri methi is another ingredient that gives these kababs an authentic taste. Extremely aromatic, this strong dried spice is an essential component. Most Indian groceries carry both mustard oil and dried fenugreek. It definitely is worth seeking them out.

Rehan's friends come to lunch and stay till dinner!! Frankies, kheema dogs, chicken kababs, lemon pasta, roasted fingerling potatoes, watermelon feta salad and tomato basil mozzarella skewers fill the table. The chocolate ganache cake disappears fast. Food stays on the table as the kids nibble throughout the day. I can picture Rehan at his kindergarten graduation, a ceremony rife with hilarious moments. Cap and gown is now put away, replaced with gravitas, briefcase and suit! Time has a funny way of creeping up on you, just like the hug I get at the end of this special evening.