Chicken & Eggplant Kebabs with Persian Style Rice and a Mint Yogurt Sauce
1. Brining chicken breasts should be mandatory. When I took my first bite of this dish I would have sworn that it was dark meat chicken and not breast. As brining promises, it made the chicken SO moist and tender. I think I may have even smiled with that first bite. And 2. If you boil rice like pasta it will come out perfect every time. This is coming from a guy who is really really bad at cooking rice. Even when I use my rice cooker it comes out too soft and starchy.
Although this is clearly a recipe that can be swapped out in so many ways, I found that the Eggplant and the yogurt sauce went really well together. If you want to just make Eggplant Kebabs it could be equally satisfying as a dinner.
First I'm going to talk to you about the rice. I really have no idea if this is a Persian method of making rice, but when I first saw this method on T.V. the other day Martha Stewart was making a Persian dish, and then when I Youtubed it, most the videos were of Persian people making some variation of that same dish Martha made. So, I'm calling Persian. Basically it's just rice boiled like pasta. All the recipes I saw were made with Bismati rice. I however used good old Uncle Ben's because that's what I had.
I filled a large sauce pan with water, added a little Olive Oil, some salt, and a big pinch of dried Parsley. When it came to a boil I dumped a cup of rice in the water, and let it boil until soft. Strangely I saw some recipes that said it takes 10-12 minutes and some that said 15-20 minutes. My rice took 22 minutes. However long yours takes, the next step I think is the important one. Pour the rice into a strainer and then let it sit for at least 10 minutes. I covered mine to keep it warm while it sat. After that you have perfectly cooked rice. Fluffy, firm, and not starchy at all.
Now, I know I'm working backwards here, but I am so happy I can make good rice now, that I just had to start there. But when you are ready to make this dish you need to start with the sauce. If you can, you will want to make this sauce the day before. I had a little this morning from last night's left overs, and the flavor got way better.
If you can't make it the day before, a few hours will do.
You'll need a couple hours to brine the chicken too, so keep that in mind.
For the sauce you'll need Yogurt, a little lemon juice, a few sprigs of fresh Thyme, about 10 Mint leaves, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika.
Depending on how much you need to make will determine how much of everything to use. I used about 2 cups of Yogurt and about 2 big table spoons of chopped Thyme and Mint combined. I added the juice of half a lemon, and seasoned with all the other ingredients slowly until I reached a flavor I was looking for. You'll want the sauce to be light and delicate. It should compliment your Kebabs -Not overpower them.
Now it's time to brine the chicken. I cubed up a package of chicken breasts and soaked them in slated water for 2 hours. I didn't measure out the salt to water ratio, I just made the water taste like the ocean, and that seemed to work. Just make sure all the chicken is covered with the solution.
Next up, when it's time to take the chicken out of the brine, rinse it off well and dry all the cubes with a paper towel. Then I coated them with Olive Oil, a tiny bit of salt (the chicken will be salty from the brine), pepper, garlic powder, and some more paprika. Mix it all together and set the chicken aside. Now that I had it, I would add some heat too. Just a little, so if you have it, maybe add a tiny bit of Cayenne pepper.
Next cube your Eggplant about the same size as your chicken cubes. I used 2 baby eggplant instead of the large kind. I wanted to make sure each piece had skin on it so they would hold up to being grilled and not fall off the skewers. After they were cubed I drizzed them with Olive oil and seasoned with just salt and pepper.
Now it's time to skewer. I used wooden skewers that had been soaking in water since I made the Yogurt sauce. That's important so they don't burn on the grill. If you have metal skewers they will work just as well.
Now just grill 'em up and your done. Just about 5 minutes on each side on a really hot grill and you should be good to go. It will really depend on the size of the chicken and Eggplant cubes you've made.
Plate by making a bed of rice on a plate, place a few of the kebabs on the rice and drizzle liberally with the yogurt sauce.
You're gonna love it. I promise!! And like I mentioned before, this is a recipe that can be changed up a thousand different ways. The yogurt sauce especially. I think dill would work well, and maybe even Tarragon. Also beef or lamb instead of chicken could be great as well. It's up to you really.
Again I would love to hear from you. If you make it, let me know what you think. Or, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Enjoy your dinner and don't forget to add the love!!
XOXO - P