Smoky, spiced chicken kebabs with Persian crispy rice (a.k.a tahdig)

Cooked under the broiler and eaten off skewers, these chicken kebabs require minimal effort or cleanup. While you can eat them any way you like, they were made to pair alongside Persian crispy rice, with smoked paprika, cumin and a touch of cinnamon spicing up the marinade. 

 Spring naan flatbread

Kebabs are a staple around here.

Meat kebabs, chicken kebabs, paneer kebabs, vegetable kebabs — you name it. They were the first thing I learned to make from my mother-in-law and my go-to in a pinch when I can’t think of anything else to cook for dinner. This family’s love for kebabs seems to run deep. So much so that my father-in-law, who loving goes by the nickname “Babloo”, has dreams of retiring to Costa Rica and opening his own “Bab’s Kebabs” shop. (We’re with you all the way, Babs!)

The reasons are obvious. Kebabs are easy to whip up, they’re made flavorful with a simple marinade that you can jazz up by switching up the spice mix, and — if  made with wooden skewers — the cleanup is minimal. Served alongside a salad or simple side, Kebabs are a complete meal and leftovers make perfect snacks the next day.

So, when my new friend Cynthia, who runs the fabulous dinner party site Confetti Kitchen, said she was coming over to make her mother’s Persian crispy rice (a.k.a tahdig) — her most requested dish — kebabs were the obvious accompanying menu choice.

Now, if you haven’t had this Persian crispy rice I’m talking about, your culinary life is incomplete. I had never tried it before Cynthia came over to explain the process on Facebook Live. Fluffy with a golden saffron crust that forms at the bottom of the pot, this rice is truly a surprising treat — and likely the most memorable rice dish you’ll ever eat.

With only four ingredients, the recipe for Persian rice is deceptively simple, but the trick to getting it right is all in the technique. The process is one that needs to be followed exactly, and Cynthia does a phenomenal job of laying it all out here.

I just followed along and enjoyed the results with these smoky, spiced kebabs that I figured would pair well with the fragrant saffron flavor of the rice. Of course, you don’t have to have one with the other, but I hope you do. (And let me know the results by leaving a comment below or tagging Laurel Street Kitchen on Instagram!) Happy cooking!

 Spring naan flatbread
 Spring naan flatbread

COOKING NOTES
The chicken requires some time to marinate, so plan accordingly. While letting the chicken marinate overnight is ideal, at least 2 hours will do in a pinch. Also, if you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least one hour before cooking to prevent them from burning under the broiler.

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed Aleppo pepper
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
1 ½  teaspoons salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds mixed boneless skinless chicken thighs and breasts, cubed
8-12 skewers (metal or wooden)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients (minus the chicken) until well combined. Add the chicken and mix until the chicken is fully coated. Transfer to the refrigerator and let marinate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  2. Thread the chicken onto the skewers, folding if the pieces are long and thin.
  3. Place the kebabs on a metal rack that’s fitted on  top of a baking sheet. (If you don’t have a metal rack or cooling rack, just place the skewers right on the pan).  
  4. Place the oven rack about 4 inches from the top. Turn the broiler on high heat.
  5. Grill the chicken kebabs until golden brown and cooked through, turning once midway through the cooking, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with the rice or a salad.