Most people don’t get the opportunity to travel and explore the wonders of this beautiful world. I have always felt that food is a powerful way to link us to peoples and cultures far removed from our own little plot of Earth. You may never stroll through the fragrant stalls of a Bazaar in Isfahan, but you can sample the exotic flavors at home. I love my Iranian heritage and proudly share the beauty of its food every chance I get. The best feeling is when I can introduce someone to exotic flavors and open up their culinary curiosity. Pete and I have a group of adventurous friends that eagerly search out new foods. We are always on the hunt for exotic spices and flavors. I hope that this little piece of Iran will be a joyous experience for your taste buds and prompt a deeper curiosity of the beautiful culture that created it. I will be posting more Iranian recipes, as well as some of our favorites dishes from multiple ethnicities.
Jujeh is the term for chicken kabob in Farsi, the language of Iran. As with all classic dishes, every family has their own little tweaks for a perfect batch of mouthwatering food. My family makes a very different version of this classic Iranian staple than you will find in a restaurant. I enjoy the classic restaurant version, but am most partial to this recipe. I will also post another version of this refreshing citrus marinated chicken another time. This version has the definite advantage of using the more easily found spice of turmeric.
I can’t state strongly enough that you need to buy your spices at an Indian or Middle Eastern grocery store. The cultures that use spices in large quantities offer them for a steal compared to a standard grocery store. I order the bulk of my international foods and spices from my uncle’s store in Atlanta, but get the items I need quickly from my local Indian market.
I buy things like sumac, dill, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika in 2 or 4 pound bags. Most of these large bags of spices run roughly the same price as a tiny spice jar in the grocery store. ** If you are just starting out with spices, try getting just a small amount of them to start with to be sure you like them. Remember – never judge a spice by its smell! Also, combining many spices can make mediocre spices explode with flavor.
I also buy yogurt from my local Indian market. Generally a 5 pound container of yogurt is less than $7 locally. These yogurts are always thick and fresh, just the way middle easterners like it. These are plain yogurts and have a bit of a tart bite, like yogurt should. There are many brands, and I just grab what looks like the best price. Our local market carries this one most often for the low low price of $6.99 – for 5 pounds. Also get your naan, pita, and puff breads at these types of markets. The quality of the breads is usually far superior than a standard grocery store and a lot cheaper. Yogurt would generally be served with this dish, as well as with most Iranian foods. I happened to be all out of yogurt, so It isn’t featured. I will post a recipe for yogurt dip at a later date.
2 pounds of chicken pieces of your choice
2 bell peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1.5 tablespoon turmeric powder
salt and pepper to taste
If you have a citrus juicer, this goes a lot faster, but it can also be done by hand fairly quickly. Cut all lemons and limes in half.
*If you are juicing by hand, drop them in hot tap water for a couple of minutes then roll them around in your hands to soften them up. Squeeze the halved pieces then use a spoon or your fingers to run around the inside of the flesh to release all the juice. Don’t worry about picking out the pulp or seeds, just throw it all in.
Rough cut the onions and bell peppers. You can also grill/cook these pieces with the chicken. They are delicious over rice. ** You can also grate the onion very finely and squeeze the juice from it, adding only the juice to the marinade This is a good way to use all parts of the onion if you are also making kubideh (a ground beef kabab), recipe to come later.
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir well. You can also use a ziplock for the marinade. I always place ziplocks in a larger dish when they are full of marinades, as the flipping and shaking of the bags can sometimes cause leakage. I often throw in fully frozen chicken, just give it a couple extra hours to marinade and keep it out on the counter. If the chicken is fresh, I put it into the fridge to soak in the flavor.
****THIS MARINADE STAINS! CLEAN UP SPILLS QUICKLY, with a damp cloth. If you miss something, and your counters can handle it, a little bleach spray takes it right out. Lemon juice and salt will also take it out, but it takes a little elbow grease. You can lay a sheet of foil over the area you are working for ease of cleanup.
Flip or stir the marinade a few times, to be sure that the chicken gets equal coverage, as the liquid tends to settle. The perfect flavor will come up after 4-6 hours. This is a very versatile dish and be cooked just about anyway you can cook chicken. Grilled, pan seared, baked. You can use bone-in or boneless pieces of chicken, or in tiny chunks on a skewer. I won’t include actual cooking instructions, as pretty much any method will work. For this batch, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and didn’t trim them or use skewers. I set my electric grill to about 375 and brushed the grill with butter so they wouldn’t stick. They cooked for roughly 6 minutes per side. I tend to cook chicken by feel and to me it is perfect when you press on it and it feels like the meaty part of the palm when you make a fist. Once the chicken feels this way, I remove it from the heat and let it rest 3-5 minutes, It will continue to cook for another minute or so and be perfect and juicy. If you take it off too early and it is still pink, throw it back on your heat source for a couple of minutes. Chicken is NOT like beef it should be totally cooked through before consumption.
This chicken goes beautifully with Persian rice and pita bread with fresh greens. It also goes with just about any other side dish and vegetables.
Served with Spanish rice and broccoli.
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