Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chicken gyros

Okay, maybe my phonetic spelling leaves a little to be desired, but it should have at least provided a tiny clue as to what I made for dinner last night: gyros!  Chicken gyros, to be exact. 

Greek food?  In Katy's kitchen?  Made by said petite cook?  I'm just as shocked as you are!  Say it with me: "Opa!"

But seriously, I'm trying to venture outside my pasta, cheese, and broccoli-lined box with regards to this week's dinners.  It all started when I spotted a recipe for chicken, not lamb, gyros over on the blog Annie's Eats.  "Huh, chicken gyros... that's unique."  Admittedly, I've never been a gyro fanatic, at least the traditional kind made with seasoned thinly-sliced lamb.  It's not that I don't love lamb (because I do, oh do I ever), but it's that, well... let me explain.

Every May, a local Greek Orthodox church in Oakland holds a food festival that seems to attract folks from all over western PA.  Gyros are made hot off the grill in a tent on the church's front lawn, but the line is always a miiiiiiiiiiillion people long, and my patience (read: empty stomach) just can't handle that kind of wait with smells so good.  Instead, I head inside and make a bee line toward the pastitsio (think macaroni and cheese with ground beef), spanakopita (spinach and cheese in phyllo dough), and snag 3 or 4 pieces of their heavenly baklava.  I wait all year for those treats and the thought of waiting 20 more minutes is just impossible to process.

So, you see, it's not that I don't like gyros, it's just that when I want them, I want them right now!  (What a mature train of thought, right?)

You can imagine my excitement when I learned that I could make gyros at home, in my very own kitchen, and have them cooked and assembled in less time than it would take to stand in line at the mercy of those sweet little old Greek men in charge of the grills.

Before you think, "I don't know about this... aren't there loads of uncommon ingredients that I don't have?  I don't want to buy all of them and make this a $30 recipe."

You won't!  With the exception of the feta cheese ($2.50 for a sizable container) and the pitas ($2), the rest of the ingredients are suuuuuper common (hence the chicken for lamb swap) and inexpensive, too.  It was really eye-opening to see how my simple kitchen could turn out authentically Greek flavors without running to a specialty food store.  For example, the tzatziki sauce: plain yogurt, cucumber, vinegar, seasonings, lemon juice, and a little olive oil -- that's it, friends!

Holy big fat Greek FLAVOR!  How have I never made gyros at home before now?  These were dynamite and so easy to make.  The marinade made the chicken so delectable that I could've eaten it alone, without any toppings whatsoever!  But, toppings -- there were plenty, so when in Rome Greece :)  The sweet tomatoes and onions, the salty feta, and the smooth tzatziki pulled the whole dish together and really made it authentic.  You've gotta try these!

One Year Ago: LA vacation recap (oh, how I miss the pedehs and fresh sushi!)

Chicken Gyros
(adapted from Annie's Eats who adapted it from Elly Says Opa)
-serves 4

A few notes: I scaled down the amount of tzatziki sauce made because, well, the original made over 2 1/2 cups of the stuff.  If you think you'll use it, by all means, go with the original proportions.  But, if you're simply making it for this dinner, I'd suggest going my way.

For the tzatziki sauce:

Scant 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
1/4 hothouse cucumber or 1/2 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon white white vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine veingar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tablespoons plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness

Pita bread
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, thinly sliced
Crumbled feta cheese

To make the sauce, shred the cucumber and wrap in a towel and squeeze to remove as much water as possible.  Mix together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.  (Store any remaining sauce in the fridge for up to a week.)

To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.  Whisk together until mixed well.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

(If you have a grill, feel free to cook the chicken on it as you would normally.)  Preheat oven to 450F.  Cook the chicken on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet 15 to 20 minutes or until done.  Remove from oven, transfer chicken to a plate, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Cut chicken into thin strips.

Heat pitas in microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.  Cut in half and fill pita with chicken, sauce, tomatoes, onions and cheese.  Serve immediately.

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