May it please the palate ...

"Like My Shawarma Status!"

By Nick Roumel

There is a thin line between providing a good recipe, and boasting about your recipe. Watch any cooking show. There’s the moment of truth where the TV chef finishes his or her creation. Some of them go to taste it, closing their eyes expectantly, and then crooning as they slip the spoon into their mouths. Others taste it, give a curt nod as if to approve. “Delicious!” they say. “Dang, do I know how to cook, or what?”

Not Julia Child. Her original “French Chef” shows featured her engaging and irreverent commentary on technique. When her dish was done, she plated it and took it to a table. She then explained what to serve with it. “A green salad, and of course French bread. The French always have bread with their meals. And if you’ve got a lot of money, a good Burgundy.” These side dishes would already be on the table, along with the wine and perhaps a vase of flowers. She would invariably pour her wine, and sign off with her trademark “Until next time, this is Julia Child, the French Chef. Bon Appetit!”

The “Shiksa in the Kitchen” is no Julia Child. While trolling for a Chicken Shawarma recipe, I came upon hers and decided to try it. I did so because she told me “I nailed it! It’s awesome! Super yummy! Even better than the shawarma at our local Lebanese restaurant.”

OK. There’s a lot of chicken shawarma out there, especially in southeast Michigan. I have fantasies that the owners of Middle Eastern restaurants meet in the alleyways between their restaurants to fight over whose chicken shawarma is better.

Little do they suspect that it was Tori Avey, the Kitchen Shiksa, who really nails it … according to herself.

Chicken Shawarma


1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 large thighs)

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp allspice

3/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp garlic powder or one large clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne

Salt and black pepper

Nonstick cooking oil spray

1. Slice the chicken breasts into 5-6 pieces each and the thighs into 3-4 pieces each. Place them in a marinating dish or large plastic zipper bag.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the spices, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper (if you're salt sensitive, use 1/2 tsp of salt). Pour the spice marinade over the chicken pieces. Stir with a spoon till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade.

3. Cover the marinating dish with plastic wrap, or close the zipper bag. Place chicken in the refrigerator and let it marinate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking oil. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced.

5. Place the chicken in the oven. Let it roast for about 15 minutes till cooked through, turning the chicken pieces once with tongs halfway through cooking.

6. Take chicken out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Use a sharp knife to slice the meat into small, thin shawarma-like pieces.

(You can also cook it over a grill to this point; then remove the cooked pieces and proceed to the next step.)

7. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on the stovetop over medium. Pour half of the chicken into the skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes till the smallest pieces of chicken turn brown and crisp. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet. Heat another 1 tbsp of
oil and saute the remaining chicken in the same way. Serve warm.

Now if you were Julia Child, you would plate this and take it to a table, laid out with linens. You would have flowers, pre-made tabbouleh salad, hummus or tahini sauce, pita bread, and of course warm pita bread. She would explain what she did, and how to serve it. But she would not say, “I nailed it.”

I do admit, this shawarma isn’t bad. Might not be worth fighting over, but I like it.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »