Turkish Grilled Chicken with Yogurt and Aromatic Spices

By on January 14, 2013

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? To Get Across the World.

Grilled Chicken with Yogurt

Adapted from “Turkey” Chronicle Books, $35.00 where ever good books are sold

½ cup plain Greek yogurt + more to serve on the side

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne (I used Aleppo pepper with I prefer)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ small yellow onion, minced

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1 2-1/2 pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Stir all ingredients except chicken together in a medium stainless bowl. Add chicken pieces, turn to coat all sides, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day build a fire in the grill, or oil your grill pan, or one baking dish. Arrange chicken pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until done through, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook some Basmati rice and mix the salad.

Serve chicken while hot over rice alongside the salad.

If there’s any other meat besides chicken that appears in so many cuisines, I’d like to know what it is?

This semester, I am hosting a graduate student, Onur Ozkan, from Turkey, who has come here to study computer science. He misses his mother’s cooking. To that end, I bought a highly recommended new cookbook called simply, Turkey, With Tales from the Road, by Leanne Kitchen (I am not making that up) who hails from New Zealand and travels the world in search of the next best thing.

Her book, which has more than 100 recipes and gorgeous photos is an armchair vacation to Turkey and highly recommended. I am cooking my way through it with great pleasure.

So we agreed, I’d try to make some typical Turkish dishes, Chicken with Yogurt, and a dessert called Irmik Helvasi which starts off with semolina toasted in butter with pine nuts, then made into a breakfast hot cereal by cooking in milk. This is served with apricots and whipped cream. Yum.

But back to the chicken. The picture showed what looked like typical grilled chicken with a charred finish but reading the recipe, I could see the flavor was going to be jumped up. Soaking the chicken overnight in Greek yogurt with aromatic spices including sweet paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic, lemon juice and other good stuff. Sounded good.

I keep telling Oz he has to learn to cook in this country, to take care of himself. It’s a basic life skill. He doesn’t look too sure. But anyway, I had bought a gorgeous whole “baby chicken” from the Chinese grocery store. Packaged so well, and looking pale and lovely under the plastic wrapper.

So here’s how it goes, I say, removing the wrapping and pulling the bird out. But guess what? The Chinese tuck in the entire head in the neck cavity, and both feet into the other end. Well, well, I say. That’s new to me. I glance over at Oz who has tuned pale.

Quick as a wink, I whacked off the head, showing him the hole in the neck where the Chinese had bled that bird. See? I say, it’s like Kosher or Hallal meat, really clean. Now, I see he is looking decidedly unsteady on his feet.

So, doing what I always do in the kitchen, I offered the head and the feet to the dogs swirling around my feet. I thought the poor man was going to pass out. Now he is sure he has found a home in with savages.

So it goes. I teach him – as I have taught countless other cooking students – how to cut down a chicken into 8 serving pieces. Then we transfer the chicken pieces to a stainless bowl with the yogurt mixture and put it away for the night.

Next day, we grilled the bird, cooked some rice, and made an impromptu salad from bitter greens and pomegranate seeds. It made a fine dinner, and he ate two helpings of the dessert. If you can’t go home again, you can at least bring it with you.

And that chicken? I may never buy a supermarket bird again. That Chinese chicken was outstanding, pale, velvety texture, and redolent of the Turkish spices it was fabulous.


Thank you Turkey for coming to call and for bringing that Chinese chicken. Yum.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”