Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I’m pretty picky about using recipes only from reliable sources, and so most of the ones I make are from cookbooks, magazines, or blogs I read regularly. But sometimes, thanks to the vast, wonderful randomness of the Internet, I end up following a string of links, arriving at a good-looking recipe, bookmarking it, and later having no memory of how I ever found it to begin with. Often I never work up the courage to make recipes with such unknown provenance, but this one—originally from Elly Says Opa! but repeated on a number of other blogs, always a good sign—just looked too tasty to pass up, and I’m so glad I took the chance, because: yum.

I already have a chicken-in-pita and three other-things-in-pitas-with-yogurt-sauce recipes in my repertoire, so I was a bit worried this would be too similar, but it had its own distinct identity—and it tasted like an ultra-fresh version of real, restaurant chicken gyros. The effect was helped immensely by my lucky decision to invest in the delicious, pillowy (if slightly pricy) Greek pitas I spotted at the farmers’ market, so I highly recommend seeking out some good-quality non-pocket pitas—or making your own, something I plan to look into promptly (I tried to make pocket pitas once and it was a flop, but I’m guessing non-pocket ones might be easier). I liked the flavor of the chicken marinade—the vinegar and the yogurt were especially nice touches—but next time I’ll amp up the flavor a bit: unlike most marinades, the original recipe didn’t call for salt, adding it to the chicken later instead, and I found the result slightly underseasoned; also, I’d consider marinating longer if time allows and using smaller pieces of chicken (breast tenders, maybe) to allow more marinade coverage. I definitely recommend using Greek yogurt for the tzatziki, which allows you to skip the yogurt-straining step, but next time I’d add the optional lemon juice to compensate for the fact that Greek yogurt tends to be less tart than normal plain yogurt. I was tempted to use just regular yogurt and not strain it, as in all my other yogurt-sauce recipes, but I ended up loving how thick and creamy, and thus more authentic-seeming, the sauce was--so don't fear; the Greek yogurt/straining and cucumber shredding/squeezing are totally worth it.

I’ll be making this again really soon..like as soon as we get back from our upcoming vacation, and probably all summer long. It’s light, it’s easy, and A and I both loved it.

For chicken:
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, or a combination)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
For tzatziki:
16 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt (if you can’t get Greek yogurt, use plain whole-milk or part-skim normal yogurt and strain it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl for several hours or overnight to remove as much moisture as possible)
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
3–5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1–2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
For gyros:
Sliced red onion
Sliced tomatoes
4–5 Greek-style (pocketless) pitas (original recipe called for 4, but ours came in a package of 5 and we found we had enough chicken and toppings to make a fifth gyro)

1. To make the chicken marinade, whisk together the 4 cloves minced garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. To make the tzatziki, grate or shred the cucumber, wrap it in paper towels or a dish towel, and then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Mix together the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice (if desired), and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate tzatziki for 30 minutes or more, so flavors can meld. Before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the top if desired (I didn’t do this).

3. When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the broiler (or grill, or pan on the stove). Cook the chicken until cooked through, allow to rest for a few minutes, then slice into strips.

4. Heat your pitas for a few minutes in a warm oven or in a skillet on the stove. Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions, then roll up and enjoy.

Serves: 4–5 (1 apiece)
Time: 30 minutes, plus at least 1 hour of marinating
Leftover potential: Good (store chicken, tzatziki, pita, and toppings separately, of course). Tzatziki has even more flavor on the second day.

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