Fourth of July Joojeh Kabob :)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Brian and I had hoped to go to Iran this year together (with fingers crossed that getting a visa for him would go smoothly this time around since we're now married), but given the political state of both countries and their relationship with each other, we decided it's not a good time to try. I was devastated. I really want Brian to see the Iran I know from my dozens of trips, and each year it feels like a little more changes, and each year there's something out of our control holding us back. 

So, to bring a little bit of Iran to us, we made traditional Persian joojeh kabobs (chicken kabobs) on Fourth of July using the wooden skewers my 85-year-old grandpa in Iran made for us last year. He actually made us so many, and they mean too much to me for us to give them out, but everyone is always so impressed when they hear he made them. 

The chicken was good (not as good as my parents', not even close to my grandparents') but I'm excited to incorporate more traditional meals and summer memories like this into our lives in Chicago. I have so many vivid memories of eating joojeh kabob in Iran. One that sticks out is a time when my great grandmother was still alive and in her late 90s. She was my grandpa's mom, lived with my grandparents, and I was kind of nervous around her (I found her false teeth in the bathroom once, it was game over from there). She called me to her room and asked me if it was time to pray. I stood back (way back) and thought she asked if it was time to eat lunch. I went to my grandma (her daughter-in-law) and told her great grandma was wondering if it's time to eat lunch. It was 10am, and my grandma was busy, but since my great grandma wasn't well and hardly ate, my grandma jumped at the opportunity and made her joojeh kabob instantly. When she called my great grandma to eat, great grandma asked why she'd eat chicken at 10am, and, will someone please just tell her, is it time to pray? I remember eating the joojeh so it wouldn't go to waste, and I'd do anything for the opportunity to be around the table with those ladies again (eating joojeh kabobs, of course). 

But, alas! Here's what we used for joojeh attempt #1 (since no one in my family has a real recipe...), which we'd definitely recommend. Also, I don't understand why, but in Iran you fan your kabobs while they're cooking (with this type of fan), and we tried to imitate that with a paper plate but that was a fail. 

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp ground saffron powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Trim all of the fat from the chicken breasts, cut them into equal pieces (1½ - 2 inches) and place them in a medium glass container. Add the sliced onions, saffron, salt, black pepper and lemon juice to the chicken and toss until the chicken pieces are uniformly coated with saffron and yellow. Add the olive oil to the dish and stir to combine.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24-48 hours. Leave the marinated chicken out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before grilling.Use narrow metal skewers to skewer the kabobs.

Prepare the outdoor grill for high heat. If using coals, they should be burned until they are covered with a white ash before grilling. The grill grates should be 4-5 inches above the heat source.

Place two metal bars at top and bottom of the grill grate, and rest the tip and handle of the skewers on the bars so the chicken and vegetables don't touch the grates.

Grill the kabobs over high heat. Keep turning the skewers until golden brown on all sides and no longer pink inside. Check one piece of the kabob by cutting through it with a knife, if it is white and juicy it is ready. Remove the kabobs that are ready from fire, keep them warm under aluminum foil and serve as soon as all are done grilling.

Enjoy the chicken kabobs and grilled vegetables over sangak (Persian flat bread) or Persian rice. If you are serving the chicken kabobs with white rice, add a dab of softened butter on top and toss gently with a fork to coat the warm rice, and sprinkle it with sumac for the traditional style. Serve the kabobs with extra lemon/lime wedges with a few wedges of fresh white or red onions.


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