Shining the Light on Chicken

Moroccan spices, honey, and crispy char from the grill turn humble chicken skewers irresistible.
Shining the Light on Chicken
Skewered chicken is extra flavorful and juicy, with lots of crispy bits and toasty, charred flavor. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Chicken has every right to be exciting. The humble bird is often dismissed, considered boring or too quick to dry out when cooked. Well, think again. Chicken is uncomplicated, reliable, and an all-around crowd-pleaser. More important, it loves a good rub or marinade and will obligingly absorb a sauce’s flavors, spices, and aromatics to enhance the best of its simple chicken self.

Which brings me to these skewers. Skewered chicken couldn’t be an easier or tastier method to deliver flavor to the meat. Sure, you can slap a thigh or breast on the grill, but if you cut the meat into bite-size pieces, you will expose even more surface area and edges to the marinade and achieve the coveted goal of roasting and grilling: lots of crispy bits and toasty, charred flavor.

This recipe relies on a heady blend of North African spices muddled with oil, lemon, and runny honey to create a soupy, fragrant paste. I recommend using thighs in the recipe because thigh meat is generally flavorful and juicy, but breast meat is fine, too—just don’t combine the two cuts on a skewer, since they will have different cooking times.

Skewered chicken is flavorful and juicy with lots of crispy bits and toasty, charred flavor.(Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
Skewered chicken is flavorful and juicy with lots of crispy bits and toasty, charred flavor.(Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Moroccan Chicken Skewers With Apricots and Onion

Active time: 25 to 35 minutes Total time: 25 to 35 minutes, plus marinating time

Serves 4 to 6

For the Marinade
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
For the Skewers
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/4-inch chunks
  • 12 to 15 dried apricots
  • 1 large red or yellow onion, halved, cut into 1-inch chunks
Whisk the marinade ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Place the chicken in the bowl and turn the pieces to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

If using bamboo skewers, pre-soak the skewers for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and thread on skewers, alternating with the apricots and onions. Lightly brush the skewers with the remaining marinade in the bowl, then discard any remaining marinade.

If using the oven, heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil the foil (or use a broiler pan). Arrange the skewers in one layer, without touching, on the pan. Roast in the oven until the centers of the chicken are nearly cooked through (they should register 158 to 160 F with a meat thermometer inserted in the center), 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.

Turn on the oven broiler and continue to cook until the edges of the meat are browned and crisp in spots and the meat is thoroughly cooked through, about 5 minutes more, turning once. Watch carefully to prevent burning.

If using a grill, lightly oil the grill grates. Grill the skewers over direct medium-high heat (400 to 450 F) until well-marked and thoroughly cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once or twice.

Serve the chicken on the skewers or slide the meat onto a serving platter. Serve with rice or couscous.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.
Related Topics