Blackstone Bistro Recipe Inspiration
by Ross Bowen, Tastemaker in Residence
Last weekend my beautiful wife Lili and I decided try a relatively new restaurant, Blackstone Bistro. It opened in the spring in the Excelsior and Grand complex in St Louis Park, MN.
We met the owners, Sharif and Marwa Bagdy when we came into the restaurant. Sharif is from Northern California, but has traveled and lived all over the world. The full menu reflects this eclectic background. There is a delightful assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, pizzas, and main courses. The couple opened their first two Blackstone Bistros in Egypt in 2010, and once the concept was proved they returned to the states and brought their unique bistro menu to the upper Midwest.
For an appetizer we split the Moroccan Hummus. It was terrific, and spicier than the normal grocery store hummus we are used to. We also shared the Jumbo Lump Crab cakes. I lived in Baltimore for four years, and I’d say the Blackstone version can stand up to anything I had in that crab-crazy place, with the added benefit of not being fried. I wish we’d had room for the Hariri Soup, another Moroccan dish made from tomatoes, lentils, and chick peas. I’d also like to try the grilled mango salad, based on the principle that everything is better when it is grilled.
For the main course Lili ordered the Lamb Shank. It was braised and served over spicy curried veggie couscous. What little I was allowed to try was delicious. I ordered the Chicken Kebab. It may have been the moistest chicken I’ve ever had! I only wish I could produce chicken this delicious when I am competing on the pro BBQ circuit.
Sharif sat down with us and we talked about his recipe. The primary secret seems to be marinating chicken cubes for 24 hours in a spiced yogurt mix. Here is my attempt at replicating Sharif’s magic – but I must tell you, his was better than mine!
Chicken a la Sharif
I cup greek yogurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresnos peppers (named after Fresno California)
Juice from 1 lemon
5 garlic cloves
Large red onion, cut into large sections.
- The night before planning to serve, mix the yogurt, olive oil, spices, lemon zest and lemon juice. Chunk the chicken breasts and mix in with the marinade. Refrigerate.
- The next night, prepare the charcoal fire with medium heat, about 300°. Thread the chicken cubes, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms onto water-soaked skewers. Retain as much of the marinade as possible on the meat and reapply with a brush if necessary.
- Place on grill and cover. Cook for about 18 minutes, until chicken is done, about 165 (according to the food police). Serve over rice. Toss the mint leaves over the dish.