Sunday, November 02, 2014

Chicken Shawarma with Toum

The other day, I was listening to the Splendid Table and it featured a discussion about toum, the Middle Eastern garlic sauce.   I work in Dearborn, which is home to the largest group of Middle Eastern people in the U.S. and toum is a restaurant staple.    It's hard to describe, but it is a very light condiment and packs the largest wallop of garlic in any food I have ever eaten.    However, on the radio show, it was suggested that toum could be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a month.   It can be used whenever you'd use garlic - in a salad dressing, a marinade, etc.   I had made toum before, and it had egg white in it, but the recipe they discussed didn't, so I can see how it could be stored for a while.  It's just lemon juice, garlic and oil.   I like the idea of having it on hand for cooking, so I decided to whip up a batch yesterday.


Since I was making toum, I decided to make chicken shawarma sandwiches as well.   I marinated some chicken breast cubes in lemon juice, olive oil and some ground coriander and salt, and broiled the cubes.   I made a batch of Olga's Kitchen bread to wrap the chicken in, and added a dollop of toum and some dill pickle spears.   Delicious!

Here's my take on the Splendid Table recipe.    It requires a food processor, but I've made it in a blender before so I bet that will work too.  I tried their suggestion to peel garlic by soaking the cloves in lukewarm water, this DID NOT WORK.   I've tried the other method suggested in the past, which is shaking garlic cloves in 2 metal bowls; that is about 50 percent effective, so I didn't bother trying it again.   It's very messy and loud!  For perfectly peeled garlic, the best method I have found over the years is a garlic tube:
garlic tube

However, since the garlic for this recipe is going to be pureed, just smashing each clove with the side of a knife works great, so that's what I did.  

Makes about 2 cups

1 cups peeled garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, or more as needed
Juice from 1 fresh lemon
3 T water

Combine the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor. Puree until as smooth as possible, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed. With the motor running, gradually add 3/4 cups of the oil in the thinnest possible stream; do not rush the process or the mixture will separate. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Gradually add 1/4 cup more of the oil in the same manner; the mixture should begin to set up a bit.  Then gradually add the lemon juice. The mixture will become lighter and whiter. Add 1/4 cup more of the oil in the same gradual fashion as before, then slowly add the water. The mixture will loosen but should not be runny.  Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. The resulting garlic paste should be creamy white and fluffy, like beaten egg whites. If not, keep the motor running and add more oil to achieve the right color and consistency.  Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid; seal and refrigerate for a few hours before using, and it's good up to a month.  Use it to add to salad dressing and marinades or anywhere else garlic is used.  

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