Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chicken Gyros

When it comes to ethnic food, Greek cuisine is near and dear to my heart. I love the simple ingredients and intense, fresh flavors. One of the things I find the most surprising about it is that the recipes often meld together ingredients that I don't usually care for on their own, and I end up loving it.  My affinity for Greek food started with the gyro. I was visiting a friend outside of Chicago and after a night out on the town, he took me to a tiny gyro stand.  All I could think of was how I don't love lamb all that much, I hate cucumber and oregano is not on my all-star list either. Despite my protests, he ordered me a classic gyro (grilled marinated lamb, tzatziki sauce, onion, tomato and feta), and I was hooked.  Since then, I have made a point to try all kinds of Greek food and I've enjoyed it all. Yes, even the cucumber!

A good gyro is high on my list of favorite foods. When I bought my house last year, I was delighted to find that it was a couple blocks away from my favorite gyro joint, Sami's Pita House. They serve up gyros with all kinds of fun twists. Their black and white gyro (half lamb and half chicken) would be my vote for a death-row last meal. That got me thinking about chicken gyros and how I could try to make them at home.  I searched and tried quite a few recipes. 

About a year ago, I found this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. It's easy and so far I haven't met anyone who hasn't enjoyed it. It comes together quickly, in about 30 minutes or so. It's also healthy, especially if you use a low-cal pita. Make the yogurt sauce a day ahead if you can. That will give the herbs and garlic a chance to meld with the yogurt and it really brings out their flavors. You can top your gyro with whatever you like. I am a fan of tomato and feta. I didn't have tomato this time around, but I always have feta on hand.  I prefer sheep's milk feta over cow's milk, but either one is fine.  If you don't have pita bread, you can use naan or any kind of flatbread.

Chicken Gyros with Yogurt-Dill Sauce
from Bon Appetit, December 1997

Makes 4 servings

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons, plus one teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onion (or 1 large onion), thinly sliced
4 pita bread rounds, warmed

Stir yogurt, 2 tbsp dill, garlic and 1 tsp lemon juice together in a small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place chicken in medium bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, 1 tsp of dill and salt and pepper.  Salt to coat.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; saute until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add 1 tbsp oil to skillet. Add onions; saute until beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Return chicken and any juices to skillet. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice. Stir until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Arrange pita rounds on plates. Top with chicken mixture. Spoon some yogurt sauce over chicken.  Pass extra sauce separately.

Grab some napkins and dig in!

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