Lebanese food is definitely one of my favorite take-out foods in the whole wide world; on average, I must pay a visit to my local Amir at least 2 to 3 times monthly. Trust me, if I had my way, I’d have my very own Doner oven at home!
Since that wouldn’t really be a viable option, I thought I would go for the next best thing and tried my hand at creating these Shish Taouk inspired Chicken Breasts.
While there’s no way to perfectly replicate their exact same tasty chicken with the super crispy golden edges without having access to said doner oven, I thought that I would at least try and replicate it as best I could using a standard oven.
But before I could get any of that “crispy brown edges” action going, I first needed to get some flavor into that chicken by marinating it overnight in a proper Shish Taouk marinade.
There are many many different variations of that marinade out there, but pretty much all of them call for plain yogurt or buttermilk as a base, to which lemon juice or tomato paste gets added, along with different herbs and aromatics. And garlic, of course; Lots of it!
Since I didn’t have any plain yogurt on hand, I chose to use buttermilk for my marinade. And since I wasn’t all that convinced about the tomato paste, I opted to go with the lemon juice…
And so I marinated my chicken breasts in that mixture of buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic and herbs, then baked it in the oven in a tightly sealed pan, scored the chicken and placed it under the broiler to mimic that crispy little edge that the Doner oven confers to the chicken.
I must say that I was pretty happy with the results!
The choice of using plain yogurt or buttermilk for you marinade is entirely up to you; both contain the same enzymes and acids that break down the proteins in chicken meat, causing it to become more tender.
The main difference is, if you choose to use plain yogurt your chicken meat will take on a slight yogurt flavor, whereas buttermilk is a little milder and will not really affect the flavor of the chicken all that much.
If you wanted to use buttermilk but didn’t have any on hand, you could also make your own by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of whole milk; you’d then want to let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until it starts to curdle. You can then just give that a quick stir and use just like you would buttermilk.
To marinate your chicken, you want to place the breasts in a baking dish that’s just big enough to accommodate them fairly tightly in a single layer.
Note that I chose to make a fairly large batch because I wanted to have leftovers, but you could very well use fewer chicken breasts if you wanted to. There’s no need to adjust the amount of marinade though, as you can’t really have too much of it. Trust me, when it comes to marinade, it’s always better to have too much than not enough!
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk until well combined and then pour that right over your chicken.
Toss the breasts around delicately with your fingers until they all are evenly coated, making sure that the marinade gets to the bottom as well.
Cover your dish with plastic film and place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.
When you are ready to cook your chicken, preheat your oven to 375°F.
Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade but do not discard marinade. We’ll be using it later.
Place your chicken breasts in a roasting pan; cover your pan tightly with aluminum foil, making sure to create a real tight seal. You want all the moisture to remain inside that foil!
Bake your chicken in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the meat turns completely opaque.
Remove the pan from the oven, set the oven to broil, place a rack in the top position and allow the chicken breasts to cool for a few minutes, until you can safely handle them with your bare fingers.
Then, with the help of a sharp knife, score the chicken breasts in a criss-cross pattern…
And then spoon some of the leftover marinade over each breast.
The scores you just made will allow that marinade to penetrate even deeper into the chicken, infusing it with even more flavor.
And now, let’s cook that newly added marinade and crisp those puppies right up!
Place the chicken directly under the broiler and leave it there for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the tops get beautifully nice and crispy and deliciously golden brown.
I say that looks pretty darn good… wouldn’t you agree?
- 8 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 275g each)
- ¾ cup (180ml) plain yogurt or buttermilk
- ½ cup (120ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1-1/2 tsp salt (I use Himalayan salt)
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- In a large mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and whisk until well combined.
- Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish that's just big enough to accommodate them in a single layer and then pour the marinade right over them. Toss the chicken breasts delicately with your fingers until they all are evenly coated, making sure that the marinade gets to the bottom as well; cover with plastic film and place your chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade (do not discard marinade) and place them in a roasting pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the breasts are completely opaque.
- Remove the pan from the oven, set the oven to broil, place a rack in the top position and allow the chicken breasts to cool for a few minutes, until you can safely handle them with your bare fingers.
- With the help of a sharp knife, score the chicken breasts in a criss-cross pattern and then spoon some of the leftover marinade over each breast.
- Place the chicken under the broiler for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the top is nice and crispy and golden brown.
- Serve immediately.