Put Turkish chicken on the grill before it's too late

Diane Rossen Worthington
Tribune Content Agency

There is still time to enjoy an outdoor barbecue as autumn begins. Barbecued chicken is really simple to prepare and is a good standby dish for casual backyard parties. When I am cooking it with a traditional sweet tomato-based sauce, I don't marinate it because the sugar in the sauce will burn the chicken. But marinating overnight in this yogurt sauce is the secret to locking in the flavor and producing tender, succulent chicken.

When I developed this recipe, I wanted the flavors of Turkey along with the Indian cooking technique of yogurt-marinated chicken. Rather than roasting these in a very hot oven, I like to barbecue the chicken pieces until nicely crisped and bursting with citrus undertones. Look for a 2 percent or full-fat Greek yogurt that will add a creamy texture. The combination of spices brings together an appealing, slightly spicy flavor. Chicken breasts and a cut-up chicken provide variety for both white and dark meat preferences. You can also use cut-up chicken breast pieces threaded on skewers.

I like to serve this for informal dinners. Start with a simple arugula salad and accompany the chicken with a cold vegetable or rice salad. Don't forget to serve the reserved sauce on the side with some warm pita bread. You can also serve this cold. To drink, try a big, fruity chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or a spicy gewurztraminer.

Grilled Turkish Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

Marinade and Sauce:

2 cups plain 2 percent or full-fat Greek-style yogurt

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium shallots, finely chopped

3 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons, thinly sliced

3 medium whole chicken breasts, halved

1 fryer chicken (about 3 ½ pounds) cut into pieces

1 small bunch parsley, for garnish

Thoroughly combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add the sliced lemons and taste for seasoning.

Reserve 1 cup of the marinade with some of the lemon slices for the sauce. Refrigerate.

Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and, using your hands, evenly coat all the pieces with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to 24 hours for the best flavor, turning occasionally.

Prepare barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill 3 inches from the flame for 7 to 12 minutes on each side, depending on size.

Place on serving platter, garnished with parsley. Serve immediately with the reserved sauce. Serves 8.

Advance preparation: This may be prepared 1 day in advance through step 3 and also 4, if serving cold. Refrigerate after grilling.

Per serving: 425 calories; 22 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 3 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 168 mg cholesterol; 234 mg sodium; 52 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.

Per serving (using skinless chicken breasts): 390 calories; 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 42 percent calories from fat); 3 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 165 mg cholesterol; 234 mg sodium; 52 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.