Fourth of July does not have to be all hot dogs and burgers! In fact, I like to celebrate this day by paying homage to the various ethnic strands in our great big beach blanket. This year, I decided…it’s going to be Greek. Not too difficult, when the homage is this delicious!
Makes 12 kabobs
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
finely grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons (see Cook’s Note)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano)
3/4 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
generous 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups whole milk yogurt
3 to 3 1/2 lbs. boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 36 equal size chunks
36 bay leaves
12 wooden skewers
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into wedges 1/2″ at the widest end
24 large cherry tomatoes (or 12 small tomatoes, halved or quartered lengthwise)
olive oil for basting
1. Working over a large mixing bowl, grate the onion using the large holes of the grater, catching all the pulp and juices. Stir in the salt until dissolved. Add the garlic, lemon zest, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and yogurt, stirring well to combine. Add the chicken and coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
2. After the chicken has marinated for 3 hours, soak the bay leaves and skewers in cold water for an hour.
3. To assemble the kebabs (after the chicken has marinated for 4 hours), thread each of the 12 skewers in the following order: First, slide on a bay leaf about two-thirds of the way down the skewer. Follow with a piece of chicken, nestling it up next to the bay leaf. Next, slide on three large single-layer pieces from a wedge of Vidalia onion. Follow with a tomato. Repeat this same operation on the same skewer, nestling each item comfortably against the surrounding ones. Complete each skewer with a third and final piece of chicken topped with a third and final bay leaf. Transfer the kebabs to a tray or baking dish until ready to grill. Discard the yogurt marinade and reserve any remaining Vidalia onion for another use.
4. When ready to grill, bring the kebabs to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire, or gas fire, and preheat the grate. When the coals are covered in a light gray ash, or when the gas fire is medium-hot, place the kebabs on the grill. Keep the longer, exposed skewer ends away from direct fire. Grill skewers on two sides until the chicken is cooked through, but still moist, about 7-8 minutes per side. Re-arrange the kebabs as needed to avoid excessive charring (but expect the bay leaves to burn a bit, which smells great!) Baste with olive oil after turning the kebabs, and again after removing them from the fire. Serve at once, with pitas if desired.
Note: The removal of the lemon zest works best in this recipe if you use a micro-plane grater, which yields fine, curly wisps of zest.
Photo courtesy of BigStock