OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Moroccan-style chicken full of texture, flavor

Moroccan Chicken Skewers With Orzo, Sugar Snap Peas and Peppers (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Moroccan Chicken Skewers With Orzo, Sugar Snap Peas and Peppers (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I love the combination of flavors and textures in this dish. The bright herbs (I used mostly parsley with a hefty bit of mint and just a little cilantro) and fragrant sauce really bring everything together. Don't skimp on either.

The recipe is adapted from/inspired by the Moroccan Skewers in "Milk Street Cookish: Throw It Together" by Christopher Kimball.

The Milk Street recipe takes boneless chicken thighs and coats them in a slather of lemon, olive oil, honey, ginger, coriander, cumin and black pepper. The thighs are skewered and broiled until cooked through. The dish is finished with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and a squeeze of juice from broiler-charred lemon.

My version swaps limes in for lemons, adds a bit of garlic and uses chicken breasts rather than thighs. I also cut back on the chicken, making just enough for two people (the original serves four), but kept the slather amount the same so I could use the extra as a sauce.

To round it out into a meal, I wanted to serve this flavorful chicken on a bed of couscous (a side that is most definitely Moroccan) but didn't have any, so I used orzo instead. Steamed rice would be good, too.

And because every meal should have at least one vegetable, I sauteed some sugar snap peas and red bell pepper while the chicken cooked under the broiler.

The actual cooking time is relatively quick, especially if you opt for couscous, which needs only a brief soak in boiling water. From the time I stepped foot into the kitchen to when we sat down to eat, it took about an hour to prepare — that includes stepping outside to pluck some mint leaves from my herb garden and the laborious task of grinding whole coriander and cumin seeds using a mortar and pestle.

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Moroccan Chicken Skewers (With Orzo, Sugar Snap Peas and Peppers)

  • ½ cup uncooked orzo OR rice OR couscous
  • Zest and juice 1 lime PLUS 1 lime, halved, divided use
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic OR garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ¾ to 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 1 bell pepper, cored and cut into strips
  • Fresh cilantro, mint and/or parsley, chopped (about 1 cup total)

Heat broiler.

Cook orzo, rice or couscous according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the lime zest and juice, 4 tablespoons olive oil, the honey, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix well. Set aside 3 tablespoons. Add the sliced chicken to the remaining mixture in the bowl. Toss until chicken is well coated. Skewer each slice of chicken with a metal or bamboo skewer; place skewers on a foil-lined broiler pan or rimmed baking sheet. Add the lime halves.

Broil 10 to 12 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through, or until skewers and limes are charred and chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken cooks, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sugar snap peas and bell pepper, cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt.

To serve, mound some orzo, rice or couscous in the center of each plate. Top with some sauteed sugar snap peas and peppers and drizzle with some of the reserved sauce. Top with chicken, herbs and a squeeze of the charred lime.

Makes 2 servings.

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