I recently took part in a workshop that focused on methods of cooking beef, lamb, poultry and fish and crustaceans. All the while I was thinking, “This would work for Egypt.” Protein — the most overused word in the Egyptian diet and the dominating dish on any home-cooked dinner menu. What I find amusing about Egyptians is that most of us don’t consider anything other than the various types of meat to be protein. We seem to disregard the other proteins gracing our market.
From the ever reliable lentils to plump peas, we’re swimming in a sea of protein, yet we come to find many an Egyptian walk into the house to question the salad sitting quietly on the kitchen counter with an “Uh, where’s the protein?” lurking beneath their breath.
I understand completely that protein is needed for growth and maintenance but the way people are consuming it makes me think that maybe we’re planning on growing an extra head, collectively. I’m thinking they may have a point though. Maybe an extra head is exactly what you need when you’re faced with a crowd to feed — whether a bunch of kids or just a few of those snacking-type friends who use food for sustenance in-between drinks — and so you make it for your own maintenance and compromise by sharing it with everyone else.
In my case, I’ve dealt with the former and the latter so one particular prepared protein has always come to the rescue — cubed chicken breasts. Whether slowly simmered in a sauce or tossed on a grill after a quick marination, chicken breasts, provided they’re not overcooked, always seem to work out well in the end. They’re lean, versatile and they don’t allow you to fall too easily into the “boring chicken dish” trap. Cubed chicken breasts are where I find the balance and manage to unilaterally reach everybody’s Zen zone.
If the revolution taught us anything, it’s that some people aren’t getting enough red meat based on the absurdity of market prices while others are eating it like it’s going out of fashion and heart disease is taking its place. Let’s face it. Red meat is not a measure of health or wealth anymore and chicken is not the healthiest second alternative there is but it’s the most widely accepted alternative and usually those are the people you target, the majority. If you’re new to the kitchen or new to chicken, you should know that almost any method can be used to cook this all-purpose bird. You have a rather neutral flavor to work with that adapts well to limitless flavor combinations. This recipe is an example of a dish you can prepare ahead of time and cooks relatively fast when you’re in a rush.
Mini Chicken Skewers
You will need:
4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red pepper, cubed
3/4 of a medium-sized onion, cubed
1 teaspoon of rosemary
1.5 teaspoons of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Mini wooden skewers
You can choose to marinate this beforehand if you prefer. I find that I prefer to do a quick marinade for around half an hour prior to threading. The herbs subtly flavor the chicken without pervading the meat. Put the oil and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork until frothy. Add the thyme, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper to the bowl and combine. Pour the mixture all over your chicken, which should be cut into small cubes. Toss the chicken in the marinade until it’s uniformly coated. Get your skewers and start threading, alternating the pepper, onion and chicken. Pour some olive oil into a large pan. Place it over medium heat. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes. Take it off the stove and serve with a wedge of lemon.