Yogurt-marinated grilled chicken (tavuk izgara)

The yogurt marinade tenderizes the chicken, adds flavour and helps keep it moist on the grill.

  • 1 cut-up chicken or the equivalent in thighs or breasts
  • 1 T cumin seed, toasted
  • 2 T dried Aleppo pepper* (if not available, substitute equal amounts dried crushed red pepper and Hungarian sweet paprika)
  • 2 T sea salt
  • 2 t fresh-cracked black pepper (or to taste)
  • squeeze ½ small lemon
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine (or to taste, more or less)
  • ¼ small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 small container plain Greek-style yogurt (or pour regular yogurt into cheesecloth suspended over a bowl for an hour or two to lose some of the extra liquid)
  • lemon wedges and chopped parsley for garnish

In a mortar and pestle, crush toasted cumin, dried peppers, salt and pepper. Place spice mix in a large bowl big enough to hold all the chicken. Mix in lemon, oil, garlic, onion and yogurt, stirring until well-combined. Drop in the chicken and, using your hands, make sure that the yogurt mixture is massaged into the chicken thoroughly. Let sit for at least two hours or overnight in the refrigerator, keeping the chicken covered in yogurt marinade and turning the meat occasionally.

Heat grill to medium/low (325ºF) or prep charcoal. When you can hold the palm of your hand over the grill for at least 6 seconds, and the coals have a thick layer of ash, it’s ready. Take chicken pieces out of the yogurt mixture giving each a little shake to get rid of extra moisture. Place on the grill and cook slowly, moving the chicken around to ensure even browning (the exact opposite of cooking a steak). The chicken is done when it is firm to the touch and golden brown on the outside, about 30 minutes.

Season, toss over some chopped parsley and lemon juice, pile on a platter and eat hot or cold.

* Dried Aleppo pepper has a fruity flavour with just a bit of warmth. Find in the spice section, brand name Cappadokka, at the Anatolia Food Market.

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