Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken La La

The first Greek restaurant I went to (and continued to frequent until it was sold to a Jamaican family) was Aladdin Cafe in Baton Rouge, LA. It was a small storefront in a strip mall, but it was really something special. The only two people working there were owners--a husband and wife team. The husband (whose name I wish I remember) worked the front of the house. He always remembered us and welcomed us in. His favorite description for their food was "feel like home" (sic). The wife cooked magical things in the back. My favorite dish was something they called "Chicken La La," marinated nuggets of grilled chicken breast that were always savory, and never bland or dry. They were served nestled into a bed of hummus. The significance of the name has always been a mystery to me, and they would never divulge anything about their recipe. Looking back, I wonder if it was a variation on Chicken Souvlaki, (the name even has a "la" sound in it) but this is far better than any Souvlaki I've tried. I've always found Souvlaki to be really dry and bland.

This is my effort to re-create Chicken La La, based only on my ten-year old memory of the flavor, and some food creativity. I am pretty convinced that Worcestershire sauce was a dominant ingredient, so it forms the base of the marinade, along with a supporting cast of delicious Mediterranean flavorings. I'll probably never know how close my recipe comes to the original, but I do know that this is one of the most delicious chicken recipes I've had. The intense marinade kind of acts like a brine, imparting moisture and flavor all the way through the chicken. This would also make a great marinade for the grill. My favorite way to serve it is like they did at Aladdin's Cafe, on top of hummus, with a greek salad on the side. With the leftovers, I love to make Greek wraps with Chicken La La, White Bean HummusGreek Chickpea Salad, and maybe some feta and leafy greens on a flour tortilla.


Chicken La La served with White Bean Hummus and Greek Chickpea Salad


Chicken La La
3 lb chicken breasts cut into approximately 1-inch sized pieces
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon
2 1/2 t garlic powder
1 t oregano
2 t salt
1 t black pepper



Put all ingredients in a large plastic bag and massage everything together to mix. Let marinate in bag in the fridge for 6-12 hours. Saute in a skillet over med-high heat with a small amount of olive oil until cooked through and browned.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I, too, frequented Aladdin Cafe and miss my Chicken La-La. I plan to make this soon and hope it tastes like Jon and Sonia's!

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  2. Glad to find another Aladdin Cafe fan! Let me know how it turns out!

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  3. My uncle in Lebanon has a restaurant, his last name is Lala, and his restaurant is called Chicken LALA, try looking it up, they serve chicken kind of like that, so maybe that is where the name of this comes from. When he comes to the states and makes us dinner, it is finger licking eat your plate up good.

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  4. Wow, that might be where it came from! I asked the owner about it one time and he said it was named after a dish in a restaurant he had somewhere in the Middle East. I Googled your uncle's restaurant and it looks like he grills the chicken whole. At Aladdin's, it was grilled in pieces. But it may be the same marinade! Did you ask your uncle what he uses?

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