Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Chicken gyros have become one of our favorite meals, but I’m always stumped about what to serve with them. Granted, the gyros are generously sized, and there are tomatoes, onions, and a little cucumber on top, but I find myself wanting more vegetables, because let’s face it, Greek salads are delicious. My beloved Mediterranean pepper salad, however, in all its colorful, creamy-briny glory, already has a fair amount of overlap with the gyro ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, check, check, check. Making both seemed too labor-intensive and redundant, and A was suspicious of the idea of flat-out replacing the gyro toppings with the salad. So when I found myself craving gyros yet again and puzzling over side dishes, I decided to take my problem to Food Blog Search to see what other people usually serve with them. There, I discovered that Bridget from The Way the Cookie Crumbles had already resolved my very conundrum: How to combine this precise chicken gyro recipe from Elly Says Opa with that exact Mediterranean pepper salad recipe from Smitten Kitchen!

Noting that each time she made the two dishes together, more and more of the salad kept making its way atop the gyros, Bridget figured out a clever way to streamline the two into a single recipe. The key is to make the chicken marinade do double duty, using a couple of tablespoons of it (pre-contact with raw chicken, of course) in lieu of the salad dressing/onion-pickling brine. She also added a few other brilliant innovations, such saving a little unused marinade to toss with the cooked chicken, which moistens the meat and seriously amplifies the flavor, and halving the tzatziki quantity (we always ended up with tons left over, yet I kept on making the full amount for some reason). I added back in one key ingredient from the original recipe, the tablespoon of dried oregano, which for me really brings the Greek taste, and magically, I had the perfect gyros meal I’d been dreaming of. Our pitas are now piled ridiculously high with toppings, and yes, sometimes they collapse entirely and dump their contents onto our plates, but then we just eat everything with a fork. If putting peppers and feta on gyros is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I didn’t think I could love gyros more, but this revamped version is replacing my old one for good.

For the chicken:
¼ cup juice from 1 to 2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (thighs, breasts, or a combo)

For the tzatziki:
1–2 small Persian cucumbers
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional)

For serving:
½ red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small red bell pepper and 1 small yellow bell pepper, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
1–2 small Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 tomato, chopped, or 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled feta
4-6 Greek-style (pocketless) pitas

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the chicken marinade ingredients except 1 teaspoon salt, the yogurt, and the chicken. Measure out 3 generous tablespoons of the marinade into a small bowl; set aside. Add the yogurt and another teaspoon of salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 15 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, for the tzatziki, grate or shred the cucumber, place it in a colander in the sink or over a small bowl, and add the salt. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to drain. Transfer the cucumber to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Combine the drained cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, pepper, and dill.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved marinade to a bowl and add the sliced onion. Set aside to lightly pickle while you prepare the remaining toppings. Mix the bell pepper, sliced cucumbers, tomato, and feta into the bowl with the onion.

4. Prepare the grill or broiler. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill/broil until cooked through. Allow it to rest for a few minutes, then slice into strips. Toss the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon reserved marinade.

5. Heat your pitas for a few minutes in a warm oven, in a skillet on the stove, or on the grill, or cover them with a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Top each pita with some chicken, tzatziki, and vegetable mixture.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 1–1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good; store chicken, tzatziki, vegetable topping, and pita separately.


Bridget said...

One of my favorite meals ever! I'll have to add some oregano to the marinade. I can't see that being anything but a good addition!

J said...

Yes, try it! I think it adds a lot of flavor.

Thanks so much for figuring out the perfect way to combine these two recipes!