Chicken Kefta Kebabs with Cranberry Balsamic Glaze
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 45 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes
These little patties, shaped around a skewer, are everyday fare throughout the middle east. The patties are formed around a bite of sweet potato and glazed in a decidedly nontraditional (but very delicious) sauce of cranberries, balsamic vinegar and aromatic spices. The prep time sound long but do the first part up to 12 hours, before cooking time so the chicken mixture will marinate and chill. And don’t forget to soak your bamboo skewers in water for at least half an hour, to avoid burning them.
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup (5 ounces) sesame-whole-wheat pretzels or crunchy pita chips, finely ground
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 (2-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ teaspoons salt, divided
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half and grated, any green center removed
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 (8-inch) bamboo skewers
1 medium sweet potato
4 firm Persian or 1 large english cucumbers cut into 1 inch rounds (tubes)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for grilling
¾ cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek
1 cinnamon stick
12 scrapes nutmeg (see Kitchen Tip)
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon rosewater, or more to taste (optional)
- Combine the chicken, sesame pretzel or pita chip crumbs, turmeric, paprika, ginger, egg, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a bowl and mix gently just until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes (and up to 12 hours).
- Soak the skewers.
- Prepare the sweet potato: Using a fork, poke holes in the potato. Wrap in a paper towel and microwave for 2 minutes, until par-cooked. [LINK TO GLOSSARY] Peel the sweet potato and cut into 8 (¾- to 1-inch) thick pieces and set aside.
- Make the sauce: Combine the stock, cranberries, vinegar, peppercorns, cardamom, fenugreek, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, and rosewater if using, in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan and bring to a strong boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and reduces in volume. Keep warm.
- Divide the chicken mixture equally into 8 balls, about 2½ ounces each. Push 1 piece of sweet potato into the center of each chicken ball and form into a sausage-like shape, being sure to enclose the potato completely.
- Skewer 1 piece of cucumber and then, carefully thread 1stuffed chicken kefta onto the skewer after it, making sure to pierce the center of the potato. Thread another piece of cucumber onto the skewer after the chicken kefta, so that there is a piece of cucumber on either side. Shape the meat to form a tight tube around the skewer. Repeat with the remaining chicken kefta, cucumbers, and skewers. Set aside.
- Preheat a grill pan or 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until very hot, and the reduce the heat to medium-high. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil all over the pan and heat until it shimmers. Position a sheet pan or platter next to the stove. Brush the kebabs with the remaining olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Place the kebabs on the grill pan or into the skillet in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Grill for about 2½ minutes per side, until they are brown and cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the chicken sausage registers 165° F. Transfer the cooked chicken to the prepared pan or platter. (Do NOT place the cooked chicken on the same pan with the raw chicken!)
- Strain the cranberry sauce and using a brush, glaze the chicken kebabs well on both sides. Serve immediately and pass the remaining sauce on the side.
- Nutmeg is available ground, but if you buy the whole nutmeg, and grate it or scrape it with a sharp knife yourself, the flavor and fragrance will be much stronger. Look for it in specialty spice stores, good supermarket spice sections, or online.
- Always use a fresh plate for fully cooked meat, poultry or fish cooked on the grill; NEVER place it back on the plate that held them when they were raw, as it holds uncooked juices that might carry foodborne bacteria. These microorganisms are killed during cooking, but placing the cooked meat back into the uncooked juices can contaminate them and cause foodborne illness.