Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
Damn the weather is funky this week, it is hard to believe it is July. There has been so much rain, I feel like I am living in a rainforest. Where did the summer go? I know rain is good for my garden, fills our reservoirs, and calms the earth, but man this constant shower is dreary. Before the deluge, I planned on making more recipes from my grill, but sadly these plans got flooded out. Fortunately, I could easily change plans with a chicken skewer recipe that has all the charm of a grilled dinner without lighting a match, Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary.
Seared chicken skewers are as easy to prepare as threading a needle. Ribbons of herb marinated chicken strips get skewered through rosemary stems then seared on a stove top grill pan or skillet. Once the chicken skewers get good and golden, they are popped in a hot oven to finish cooking in a wine bath. It may sound like a lot of steps, but the two-part cooking process goes by very quickly and effortlessly.
La Cucina Italiana
I first discovered the idea of using rosemary stems as skewers several years ago in La Cucina Italiana magazine, the English version, (May 2013). If you wish to browse through this lovely magazine online, you will need your browser to translate the pages for you. This picturesque magazine is all about Italian cuisine and Italy, and I only have this one volume. Their chicken skewer recipe is part of a feature on cooking with fresh herbs. I spotted their Spiedini di Pollo Marinato alle Erbe recipe, (which means herb marinated chicken skewers) because it uses woody rosemary stems for the skewers. What a clever use of something one would normally throw out.
We always have a lot of rosemary around our house because Joe makes a delicious sourdough olive rosemary bread for Rochambeau Farm Stand. Sometimes there is a lot of rosemary left over so I am always looking for recipes to use up any leftover sprigs. Fortunately, we buy our rosemary at a restaurant supply store and can get rosemary sprigs that are 10 to 12 inches long. These woody sprigs make the best skewers for grilling and a great substitute for bamboo skewers if you can get them.
Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
I love cooking with fresh herbs and use them whenever I can. A simple scattering of fresh herbs like basil, tarragon or rosemary lifts any food from standard fare to interesting and uplifting. This herb marinade is a good example of how using fresh herbs can make a big difference in flavor. It just wouldn’t taste the same if you made the marinade with dried herbs.
The only change I made is adding minced garlic to the marinade and Kosher salt to the chicken before adding the marinade. Adding the salt first gives the salt time to steep in the chicken meat. Boneless skinless chicken breasts need a lot of help developing flavor and I wanted the chicken to taste seasoned without being salty.
I thought the original recipe needed some more oomph, so I added a lot of garlic. What I then realized is this marinade is very similar to the marinade in my Lemon Herb Roast Chicken Recipe.
A bonus using this marinade is there is no acid to turn the chicken breasts mushy. As a result, you can easily prepare the marinade and chicken in advance, then skewer and cook the chicken right before you plan on eating.
Another aspect I like about this recipe is the two stages for cooking the chicken. First, you sear the chicken skewers, which only takes about 2 minutes per side, then the skewers are roasted in a very hot oven with some white wine. This creates a moist chicken with a light tasting pan sauce. This pan sauce helps keep the chicken tender and adds another layer of flavor to your meal.
If you wish, and already have the grill going for another food, sear the chicken skewers on your grill, then finish cooking them in the oven as directed.
Is It Done Yet?
The most difficult part about this recipe is determining when the chicken is done. Everything else is very straightforward. Like chicken kebab, the chicken gets packed in on the skewer making it difficult to determine when it is done. It is important to check the pieces in the middle of the skewer where it is compact and thus need a longer time to cook. Getting a good look at the inside of the chicken is difficult therefore a good instant read thermometer is your best tool for the job. I love my Thermapen thermometer, but any fast and reliable instant-read thermometer will work.
Vegetable Side dishes for Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
These chicken skewers will pair well with many vegetables and sides. Here are just a few from my blog.
Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise
Check out my new Recipe Index. It is now easier to look up a recipe on my blog by clicking on a category in the recipe index. It is easy to read on a laptop or desktop computer. Unfortunately, the index and categories get spread out when viewing from a mobile device like your phone. You can find my recipe index at the top menu on my home page.
Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
You can get long and woody rosemary sprigs at farmers markets, restaurant supply stores, or wholesale stores.
Seared Chicken Skewers with rosemary is an easy family meal or great for entertaining.
Depending on how big each chicken breast is, there is enough chicken for 4 people with hearty appetites or 6 to 8 people served with two other side dishes.
- 2-3 lb. (1 k -1.5 k) boneless skinless chicken breast -4 breasts
- 1 tsp (3 g) Kosher salt
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 heaping TB (10 g) heaping Tablespoons minced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) thyme lemon thyme if you can get it
- 1 TB (1.5 g) minced parsley
- Zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup (60 ml) 70 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing the chicken
- 8 - 10 bamboo skewers or long woody rosemary stems
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth Like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Press on the chicken breast so they have an even thickness. You do not have to pound them out, just even them out a little. Slice each breast lengthwise into ¼ inch (.5 cm) slices. Add the chicken ribbons to a bowl large enough to hold all the chicken without crowding them and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Using clean hands, mix the chicken with the salt until it is evenly incorporated. Thoroughly wash your hands and the bowl of chicken aside.
Prepare the herb marinade
In a small bowl add the minced garlic, minced rosemary, thyme, minced parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Remember to wash your hands after you mix the chicken before you touch anything else.
Add the herb marinade to the chicken and toss with your hands until the chicken strips are evenly covered in the herb marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hrs.
Cook the Chicken
If you are using rosemary stems, cut the end to make a pointed tip for easy threading. Soak the bamboo skewers or woody rosemary stems in water for 30 minutes. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator to rest on the counter and come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8. Slide the oven rack in the middle position.
Thread each skewer with the chicken slices. You can roll up each slice and spear it on the skewers, or weave each slice of chicken, over and under the skewer creating a ribbon of chicken. Squish the threaded chicken to make room for another slice. Depending on the length of each skewer, you can fit 3 to 4 slices of chicken on each skewer. Be careful not to pack the chicken in too tightly.
Heat a grill pan or a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the grill pan is good and hot, add the chicken skewers to the pan. Only add enough skewers to not crowd the pan, about 3-4 skewers. Sear the chicken until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sear the other side, about 2 minutes more.
Place the seared chicken skewers in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer without overcrowding, but small enough so the liquid won’t dry out when cooked. See Note.
Continue to sear the remaining skewers in batches until all the chicken is seared.
Add the white wine or dry vermouth to the baking dish holding the chicken skewers. Add more if the wine does not cover the bottom of the pan.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast until done, about 10 minutes. Start checking the chicken at around 8 minutes. A good instant read thermometer is your best tool here for determining if the chicken is done. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F / 74° C. Once done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with pan juices with grilled asparagus or zucchini.
The original recipe calls for a 9" x 13" (23 x 33 cm) baking dish. That is a little too small to fit 8 skewers without overlapping. Often, I needed to nestle each skewer around the dish with some laying vertical and others horizontal at the top and bottom of the dish. Trim each skewer to help them fit easily in the pan. Other times I used a larger baking dish 15" x 10.5" (38 x 27 cm) which is a tad too big. When I use a bigger baking dish I add more wine to make sure the liquid covers the bottom of the pan, so it does not dry out in the oven.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken
Coating chicken thighs with spices and sesame seeds adds a unique flavor to an otherwise ordinary weeknight chicken dinner. This recipe for baked sesame chicken should not be confused with the sesame chicken you find in Chinese restaurants. There is no breading, the chicken is baked not fried and the flavor is very different. Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken is made with boneless chicken thighs, with a generous coating of toasted sesame seeds flavored with spices and ingredients traditionally found in Middle Eastern foods, like cumin, coriander and pomegranate molasses.
Middle Eastern food is often seasoned with a mixture of fresh herbs and spices creating one complex and unique flavor out of many ingredients. At first glance of a typical ingredients list one would wonder how will all the spices and herbs taste together? It would seem like there is too much flavoring going on and the ingredients would compete. Yet, Middle Eastern food is the master of mixing all these spices and herbs in just the right way to create one harmonious flavor out of many.
Baked Sesame Chicken
When I started developing this recipe for baked sesame chicken, I loaded it up with a lot of different spices and ingredients that I love in Middle Eastern foods. Yet, after my first batch I decided to keep the flavor profile of baked sesame chicken on the subtle side. What stood out to me is the combination of the toasty notes of sesame seeds and the sweet and tangy flavor of pomegranate molasses and wanted to make sure these flavors stood out. It took a lot of will power to resist my temptation to add saffron to the marinade, but I do believe it would work nicely here.
Chicken benefits from some marinade, especially when the skins and bones are not there to add extra flavor. However, you do need to be careful and not marinade chicken for too long when there is a lot of acid. Chicken, especially boneless breasts, turns mealy if it sits in a marinade for too many hours. In this recipe, the amount of time marinating is kept at a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature seasoned with Kosher salt, then an hour in the refrigerator coated in the sesame marinade. There is not a lot of acid in the marinade, so the chicken thighs can take a longer marinade if you wish, but not overnight.
Like the yogurt dressing, the roasted vegetables are more like a condiment for the baked sesame chicken as opposed to a vegetable side dish. The concentrated and bright flavors of roasted fennel and grape tomatoes help the nutty and subtle sweetness stand out. The yogurt dressing is optional, but I think the vegetables roasting in the oven with the chicken is an integral flavor for the meal.
To Grill or Not to Grill
This time of year, it is tempting to want to grill these chicken thighs. The days are longer, warmer and bright, and I just want to spend to whole time outside. However, I have good reason to bake sesame chicken and not grill it. Sesame seeds burn easily when seared over the hot coals. Unlike chicken meat, the charred sesame seeds turn very bitter and unpleasant. Therefore, this is not a recipe that effortlessly transitions from roasting to grilling.
Specialty Ingredients for Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken
There are a couple of specialty items in the recipe, Aleppo Pepper and Pomegranate Molasses. both ingredients are available at specialties markets. You can find both at Middle Eastern food stores like Sahardis in Brooklyn or online. If you are interested you can make pomegranate molasses using this recipe from Alton Brown. Personally, I have not had a lot of luck making it, so I buy it.
Pomegranate molasses has a unique flavor of tart, sweet and caramelized pomegranate syrup and there is not a good substitute.
If you cannot find Aleppo pepper, you can substitute it with most varieties of chili peppers.
Sesame Seed Love
I love just about anything with the toasty nuttiness of sesame seeds and sprinkle them on bread, in salads, stirred into rice as in Crunchy Jasmine Rice, sprinkled over a stir fry in Sesame Shrimp with Spinach, or as a featured flavor like in Cold Sesame Noodles. Even though they are seeds, I get the same warm nutty flavor I love.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are staple dinner items in many households, especially mine. They are easy to prepare and do not take a lot of time to cook. We eat them so often, it is nice to have a variety of marinades for chicken to change things up a bit. Baked Sesame Chicken is a great alternative to a breaded cutlet creating a meal with a unique flavor profile. The combination of the nutty sesame seeds and the sweet and bitter components of the pomegranate molasses, orange zest and honey, compliment the roasted chicken and vegetables for a unique tasting chicken dinner.
Roast thinly sliced fennel and grape tomatoes to brighten up the nutty chicken. The yogurt dressing is optional and adds a tangy contrast to the roasted chicken.
Serve with a green salad made with arugula, orange segments and avocado slices with a citrus vinaigrette.
This meal is also delicious made with skin on and bone in chicken thighs. Or, any part of the chicken with or without the skin and bones.
- 1.85 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 5
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ¾ tsp dried oregano
- A few grounds of white pepper
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 TB dry white wine or vermouth
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- Zest from half an orange and orange slices
- 3 TB toasted sesame seeds
- Sesame chicken
Marinated sesame chicken thighs
- 1 fennel bulb with fronds about 13 oz (380 g)
- 8 oz 2331 g grape tomatoes
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 orange slices
- ¼ cup plain yogurt or crème fraiche
- ½ clove pressed garlic green germ removed
- Pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes or a pinch of ground cayenne pepper
- If it is too thick thin it out with a squeeze of lemon juice or milk. Adding a little at a time until you get the right consistency for easy drizzling.
Make the marinade
Place the chicken thighs on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the chicken thighs and pat them dry on both sides. Sprinkle Kosher salt over both sides of the chicken and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the chicken thighs. After the 30 minutes rest, add the seasoned chicken thighs to the marinade and toss around with your hands to get the chicken pieces well coated with the sesame seeds and marinade.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken for one hour or more.
20 minutes before you want to bake the chicken, turn the oven on to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position.
Putting it all together
Cut off the stalk and fronds of the fennel bulb, then cut the bulb in quarters. Slice the bulb quarters into thin pieces less than a quarter of an inch (.5 cm) thick. Add the sliced fennel to a large mixing bowl. Add the grape tomatoes, the extra virgin olive oil, some fennel fronds, a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple grounds of black pepper. Toss to evenly coat the vegetables with olive oil.
Arrange the chicken thighs on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the fennel and grape tomatoes and arrange around the chicken. Slide in the orange slices near the chicken.
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork, about 165°F (74°C).
While the chicken is cooking, mix in a small bowl the yogurt, pressed garlic Aleppo pepper and lemon juice. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grounds of fresh black pepper. Taste and correct seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and let it rest on the counter until ready to serve.
Serve hot drizzled with yogurt sauce and a tossed salad of arugula and fresh herbs, avocado and orange segments.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken
It is obvious, roast chicken is one of my favorite foods. To me it is pure comfort food at its best. The perfect roast chicken has tender and juicy meat with rich flavors that only roasting can bring. Unfortunately, when my children were young, having roast chicken for dinner was an event because it took so long to make. I wish I knew then what I know now. Those oven-stuffer birds of the 90’s would roast in half the time if I removed the backbone. This technique is also known as, spatchcock chicken. A whole chicken with its back bone removed and laid flat in a skillet or roasting pan.
In the 90’s, I knew about Chicken Under a Brick, but I did not transfer that information to my roast chicken recipes until later. From my years as a cook in a gourmet food store, I learned how to cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces. I knew the process and was very confident using sharp knives and handling raw meats. For whatever reason, I did not cut up the chicken at home. If I had, those 7 pounds plus oven-stuffer roasters would have made a more frequent appearance on my dinner table. The usual 2 1/2 hours roasting in the oven would decrease to 1 hour 15 minutes. It still takes time to roast a spatchcock chicken, but it is more reasonable. Better late than never.
Prep a Spatchcock Chicken
Like traditional roast chicken, spatchcock chicken lends itself to an infinite variety of seasoning and types of cuisines. It is delicious plain marinated in buttermilk, salt and paprika, or seasoned with Middle Eastern flavors like Za’atar, fennel and preserved lemons. Take a culinary trip around the world with spatchcock chicken by simply adjusting the herbs and seasonings.
No matter what flavor profile you want, chicken tastes best when seasoned with salt, several hours before cooking. If I plan correctly, I will spatchcock and season a chicken with Kosher salt and keep it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. I prepare the chicken during dinner cleanup so I don’t dirty a clean kitchen. Often, I am likely to forget about this step if I wait till the morning of. I admit there were times I forgot. If that happens, season the chicken with salt then leave it to rest at room temperature for an hour. Even that bit of time makes a difference in flavor and tenderness.
I never miss an opportunity to roast vegetables, especially potatoes, with chicken. After a long roast, the vegetables become luscious with pronounced flavor. For this recipe, this extra step is optional. If you roast the chicken in a skillet, roast the vegetables in a separate dish. It will be too crowded in the skillet, and the chicken will steam. Sheetpans are perfect pans for roasting chicken with vegetables.
What is for dessert? Try Double Coconut Pie
Honey mustard spatchcock chicken is a family favorite and so easy to make. All you have to remember is use equal parts honey and mustard. Any additional amounts of herbs and spices is up to you and your taste buds. Personally, I love sage and chicken together and believe it adds earthy notes against the sharp mustard and sweet honey. Also, I like this sweet and savory sauce with some heat from chili peppers. My preference with spicy ingredients is their heat hangs in the background without drowning the other herbs and spices. Sometimes adding a small amount of chili pepper makes the other ingredients more pronounced. Play around with the different herbs and spices and see what you create.
This recipe is also delicious cooked over indirect heat on the grill.
Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken
- 1 4-5 lb 2 K roasting chicken
- Kosher salt depending on the weight of your chicken, about 1TB
- 10 sage leaves - divided
- 1/4 cup (63 g) Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup (82 g) honey
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground chili powder or to taste
Optional roasted vegetables
- 8 oz (385 g) small new potatoes cut in half or quartered
- 4 / 6 oz (170 g) shallots, peeled and cut in quarters
- 1/2 (about 216 g) fennel bulb sliced in thin wedges
- 4 garlic cloves cut in half lengthwise
- 12 oz (358 g) grape tomatoes
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil - divided
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt- divided
- 3 sprigs of thyme
How to spatchcock a chicken.
1- Remove the neck and gizzards from the cavity of the chicken. Rinse the inside and outside with cold running water. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
2- Place the chicken on a cutting board breast side down with the legs pointing towards you.
The back bone runs through the middle of the back and is about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches wide.
3- Grab hold of the "tail" end with one hand and cut along a side of the backbone toward the neck with good kitchen scissors. Repeat on the other side of the back bone.
4- If you do not have kitchen scissors, score the skin through to the meat with a sharp chef's knife along each side of the backbone. Turn the chicken upright onto its neck, and slice along the side of the backbone. Cut through the skin, meat and bones down to the neck. Lay the chicken down and open the chicken up like a book, and cut through the other side of the backbone.
5- Once the backbone is removed, turn the chicken over breast meat facing up, and press down on the sternum until you hear a pop and feel the breastbone release and lie flat.
6- Tuck the wing tips under the back of the neck, or trim them off so they do not burn.
Save the backbone for chicken stock.
Prep the chicken
The night before, cut the back bone off the chicken.
Generously, sprinkle Kosher salt all over the chicken on both sides. Slide a sage leaf under the skin and on top of the breast meat on each breast. Repeat for each thigh. Let the salted chicken rest for 30 minutes uncovered on the counter.
Place the chicken in the refrigerator, uncovered overnight and up to 24 hours.
One hour before you want to begin cooking take the chicken out of the refrigerator. Let the chicken come to room temperature.
Putting it altogether
Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C)
While the chicken is coming to room temperature, make the honey mustard sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, honey, ground chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt until combined.
Rough chop, or snip with scissors, 4 sage leaves and add to the honey mustard. Taste and correct the seasonings.
Once the chicken has come to room temperature, baste the chicken on both sides with the honey mustard. Get a good even coat over the whole bird .
Place 4 sage leaves in the center of a low sided sheet pan, or 12-inch skillet,(30 cm) and place the chicken over the sage leaves.
If adding the optional vegetables, put the potatoes, fennel shallots and garlic into a medium bowl. Stir in 2 TB extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add the prepared vegetables in an even layer around the chicken on a sheet pan. Then scatter the thyme sprigs over the vegetables.
Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile add the tomatoes in the same bowl you used for the vegetables, and stir in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Later, scatter the tomatoes around the vegetables after 20 minutes of roasting.
If you have honey mustard sauce left, baste the chicken with the remaining sauce. Use up all the honey mustard sauce.
Rotate the pan left to right and front to back, and roast for 20 minutes more. Check the chicken and vegetables to see if they are done cooking. The chicken is done cooking when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is at 165°F (74°C) and the breast meat is 170°F (77°C), and the juices run clear. There should be no cloudy, pink or blood color in the meat juices. Make sure you check the temperature of both breasts and thighs. The vegetables are done when they are tender in the middle when pierced with a fork.
If the chicken is not done, continue to roast and check at 5 - 10-minute intervals depending on how much more the chicken needs to roast. Often the breast and thighs cook at different rates and one is done roasting before the other. If either part is done and you still have a way to go before the other portion of the chicken is done, cut off the done part and let it rest on a carving board.
If the vegetables are finished roasting before the chicken, remove the vegetables and place in a serving dish or plate. You want the vegetables to be tender, but still maintain its shape. Keep the vegetables warm while the chicken is roasting.
When the chicken is done, place it on a carving board and let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting it up.
Cut into 8 pieces and place on a platter surrounded by the roasted vegetables. Serve family style.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.