Photo by Thomas Payne
Chef Meherwan Irani’s marinade for these chicken skewers achieves the perfect balance of yogurt, lime, and spices. Cutting the chicken into strips rather than the traditional whole chunks allows the meat to cook faster without drying out, and as an added bonus, increases the surface area in contact with the marinade. The same marinade and technique can also be used for lamb (boneless or chops), steak, or paneer.
Look for jars of ginger-garlic paste at your local Indian grocery store. If you can’t find it, make your own by smashing 6 cloves of garlic with a 1½-inch piece of peeled ginger in a mortar and pestle, or by blending to a coarse paste in a food processor. Dried fenugreek leaves are a savory, aromatic herb reminiscent of maple syrup. Commonly used in Indian street food, chaat masala is a tangy mix of rock salt and spices including dried mango powder, asafetida, and black pepper.
Yield: serves 8
5 hours, 10 minutes
1 1/4 cups Greek yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp. Kashmiri chile powder
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Indian red chile powder, or substitute cayenne
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
2 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut on the bias, against the grain, into 1/2-inch-thick strips
- 1/2 cup melted ghee or unsalted butter, for basting
1 tsp. chaat masala (optional)
Make the marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil,
ginger-garlic paste, vinegar, Kashmiri chile powder, salt, garam masala,
coriander, fenugreek (if using), cumin, Indian chile powder, and lime
juice until completely smooth. Add the chicken and toss gently to coat.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 6. (Over-marination
will make the meat mushy and soggy.)
Meanwhile, soak ten 8-inch bamboo skewers for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
When ready to cook the chicken, preheat a grill to high (about 450°F)
or a grill pan over very high heat. Drain the skewers and shake off any
excess water. Skewer the chicken: Start by pushing the tip of the skewer
through one end of a chicken strip. Curve the strip and push the tip
through the middle, then curve again and skewer the other end to create
an S-shape. Push the strip to the far end of the skewer and repeat with
more chicken, threading 4–5 strips per skewer.
When the grill is hot, add the skewers side by side, spacing about 1
inch apart. Cover the grill and cook until lightly charred on one side,
about 4 minutes. (If using a grill pan, cover by placing a large steel
bowl over the skewers, or by tenting loosely with aluminum foil.) Open
the grill and flip each skewer using tongs, then cover again and
continue cooking until the opposie side is charred, about 3 minutes.
Open the grill and flip each skewer once more. Baste the tops with ghee
and continue cooking with the grill open until cooked through, 1–2
minutes more. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with chaat masala (if
using), and serve hot.