Shawarmas are Middle Eastern street food. In Abu Dhabi they were usually just meat roasted on a spit, then shaved off into a pita with garlic paste, French fries, and pickles. So, the funny thing about this recipe, which I have spent years “getting right,” is that I should have known it would be way better with mushrooms than chicken. We went from starting out using chicken breasts in this recipe to chicken thighs because there was never really enough “juice.” Which is why, when I made these last night and my husband oohed and ahhed, and said they were the best I had ever made, I felt pretty satisfied. J
So, without further ado, my shawarmas. There is going to be a great deal of chatter and explanation because these are definitely NOT measured out and each time I make them, it just gets better.
What You Need:
A package of the thinnest pita bread you can find (in Arabia, it is suuuuper thin, and the teensiest bit sweet-ish), or make your own. Here is a recipe I have used before: http://mideastfood.about.com/od/breadsrice/r/pitabreadrecipe.htm
Cheap, frozen (crinkle) French fries, about 2 cups unless you want to eat them as a side too, which we normally do. Cook them separately according to package directions.
About a half a cup of thinly sliced pickles (dill). If you can find the real thing at a local Arab market, they will taste more authentic, but dill works just as well too.
For the Mushroom Filling:
½ white onion, chopped
1 lb of mushrooms, sliced (I used button mushrooms but after making it, I realized the sturdy, earthy nature of sliced portabellas would have been amazing as well.)
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions and sauté until they begin to appear translucent.
Ok, now here is where it gets tricky. The rest of this is by estimation/sight and has never been measured.
This is the marinade for the mushrooms:
In a large bowl, whisk together the following:
3 TBSP olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (at least a tablespoon… use a press, or juice a whole one by hand)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp each: black pepper, cardamom, paprika, turmeric, garlic powder, and onion powder
Now, add a “dash”, like, legit not enough to even measure, just enough so you can see it sitting on the top of the previous addition, of the following:
Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice (be SUPER careful with this one), and ground clove
Now whisk that up really good, it will be pretty thick. Add the sliced mushrooms to the bowl and toss until they’re evenly coated.
Add the mushrooms to the onions and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and have created a nice juicy sauce.
For the garlic paste:
3 bulbs (not cloves, the whole bulb) of fresh garlic, peeled
¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
1-3 cups of Olive oil (I buy a new container and depending on the success of the emulsion, you may use most of it.
Ok, this is the part that has taken the longest to get right. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and salt to a blender and pulse until the garlic is mostly chopped and the ingredients have combined. Now, turn on the blender to a medium speed and SLOWLY drizzle in the olive oil in a thin, continuous stream until about half of the bottle has gone in. If you are going slow enough, the mixture will emulsify and become a thick, white paste. If you rush it and pour too quickly, it will either be too runny (though still delicious) and it will likely separate. So again, slowwww pouring. If it gets too thick and won’t spin, that’s probably the best you’re going to get without separating it, so call it good and enjoy this heavenly mixture.
To assemble the shawarmas: Heat a pita so it is warm and pliable (just 15 seconds or so in the microwave), smear garlic paste on one side of the whole thing, add about a quarter of a cup of the mushroom mixture, as many pickles as you’d like, and top with the cooked fries. Fold in half so it is sandwich-like, and enjoy!