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Recipes for yogurt-marinated grilled chicken

These Turkish- and Tandoori-style preparations bring the flavor.

Turkish-style yogurt-marinated grilled chicken thighs.
Turkish-style yogurt-marinated grilled chicken thighs. (Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty)

Adding flavor is one big reason to marinate foods. And in countries like Turkey and India, where yogurt is an important part of the cuisine, it’s a common marinade component. On grilled chicken, yogurt’s clingy consistency delivers a bonus in the form of an extra-thick, flavorful coating.

In Turkish marinades, yogurt is often paired with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and a few simple spices, or with red pepper paste and mint, hallmark Turkish flavors. Indian tandoori chicken is justly popular for its blend of yogurt, citrus, garlic, ginger, fresh chili, and spice; I include some cardamom for an extra breath of the exotic.

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Turkish-Style Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs

Serves 6 (2 thighs each)

Keep your eye on the chicken when it’s over the hotter part of the fire, particularly when the skin side is down — the fat that drips off will likely cause flare-ups.

2/3 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic (about 4 medium cloves)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons paprika

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

12 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3½ pounds), trimmed, rinsed, and dried

Neutral oil, for the grill grate

2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion whites and greens (about 1 medium scallion)

In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon salt, 1½ teaspoons black pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne, if using, until uniform. With a sharp knife, slash the fleshier skin sides of the thighs. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture, turn the pieces to coat thoroughly, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Prepare a medium-hot 2-level fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. Clean and oil the grill grate. If using a gas grill, leave 1 burner on high and adjust the other(s) to medium heat, and grill with the lid closed. Cook the chicken pieces bone side down on the hotter side of the grill, undisturbed, until the meat is grill-marked, 2½ to 4 minutes. (If the fire flares while cooking, spray the flame with water or move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill until the flares die down.) Turn the pieces over and continue grilling skin side down, undisturbed, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 2½ minutes longer. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking (once again with the lid closed, if on a gas grill), turning occasionally, until the chicken is dark and fully done (meat registers about 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), 20 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve warm with lemon wedges.

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TIP: Turkish cooks use red peppers in many forms, including a concentrated red pepper paste. Available either mild or hot, red pepper paste may be an ingredient in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades, or a condiment or spread. Look for it at one of the Armenian food shops in Watertown — <a href="http://www.sevanboston.com/">Sevan Bakery</a>, Arax Market, or <a href="https://www.massisbakery.com/">Massis Bakery</a> — all within a block or two on Mt. Auburn Street.
TIP: Turkish cooks use red peppers in many forms, including a concentrated red pepper paste. Available either mild or hot, red pepper paste may be an ingredient in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades, or a condiment or spread. Look for it at one of the Armenian food shops in Watertown — <a href="http://www.sevanboston.com/">Sevan Bakery</a>, Arax Market, or <a href="https://www.massisbakery.com/">Massis Bakery</a> — all within a block or two on Mt. Auburn Street.(Mark Schou)

> VARIATION

Red Pepper and Mint Turkish-Style Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs

Serves 6 (2 thighs each)

Take extra care while grilling, as the red pepper paste in the marinade burns easily. Using Turkish Aleppo pepper flakes (you can substitute standard-issue crushed red pepper flakes) maximizes the Turkish spirit. (However, if you substitute hot red pepper paste for the mild, you won’t need pepper flakes at all.)

Follow the recipe for Turkish-Style Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs, making the following changes:

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1) Decrease yogurt to 1/3 cup and salt to 1½ teaspoons; omit the lemon juice.

2) Increase the garlic to 2 tablespoons. Substitute 1/3 cup Turkish mild red pepper paste, 1/3 cup dried mint, and 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes for the cumin, paprika, and cayenne.

3) In a blender puree the yogurt, olive oil, garlic, red pepper paste, mint, Aleppo pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper until smooth. Using this marinade, continue with the recipe.

Indian Tandoori-Style Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken Thighs

Serves 6 (2 thighs each)

Restaurant tandoori is often tinted red with food coloring. You can achieve a similar but lighter tone with paprika and turmeric (and/or by using annatto-infused oil in place of the neutral oil in the marinade).

½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt

3 tablespoons neutral oil, plus extra for the grill grate

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

Salt and black pepper

½ small onion, chopped, plus thinly sliced onion for serving, optional

1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic (about 4 large cloves)

2½ tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons finely chopped serrano chili, with ribs and seeds (about 1 medium), plus thinly sliced serrano for serving, optional

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

12 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3½ pounds), trimmed, rinsed, and dried

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving, optional

In a blender, puree the yogurt, oil, lime juice, 1 tablespoon salt, 1½ teaspoons black pepper, chopped onion, garlic, ginger, serrano, paprika, turmeric, cumin, and cardamom until smooth. With a sharp knife, slash the fleshier skin sides of the thighs. In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the chicken and the yogurt mixture, turn the chicken to coat thoroughly, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

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Prepare a medium-hot 2-level fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes. Clean and oil the grill grate. If using a gas grill, leave 1 burner on high and adjust the other(s) to medium heat, and grill with the lid closed. Cook the chicken pieces bone side down on the hotter side of the grill, undisturbed, until the meat is grill-marked, 2½ to 4 minutes. (If the fire flares while cooking, spray the flame with water or move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill until the flares die down.) Turn the pieces over and continue grilling skin side down, undisturbed, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 2½ minutes longer. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking (once again with the lid closed, if on a gas grill), turning occasionally, until the chicken is dark and fully done (meat registers about 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), 20 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to platter, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if using, and serve warm with lime wedges and, if desired, sliced onion and serrano.

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Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to cooking@globe.com.