Sometimes when I’m cooking a dish, I find myself anticipating the leftovers as much as the initial meal. That’s the case with this souvlaki-style chicken and tzatziki.
I’ll enjoy it the night I make it, with chicken hot from the oven and the toasty pita, but I love knowing I can open the refrigerator the next day, grab a few chunks of cold chicken, a dollop of that dill-flavored Greek yogurt dip, maybe an olive or two and tuck that all into half a pita for a delicious snack.
It’s one of those small delights in life.
When I serve this to a group, however, I like to create a pretty serving platter with a bowl full of tzatziki, salty black kalamata olives, ripe tomatoes, sweet onion wedges and whole wheat pita warmed in the oven. I usually put a wedge or two of lemon on the platter as well, so folks can add a spritz of juice as they eat. (If you have cucumber and fresh dill, you can put them out with your platter, too.)
This platter always gets an “oh-how-pretty” when presented to guests, who then dig in with relish. Some tear the pita and fill it with chicken, veggies and yogurt dip; others prefer to eat the meat and accompaniments with a fork.
The chicken is so easy to make. At home, I sometimes don’t use skewers, although they do make a lovely presentation. I just cut the chicken into chunks, toss it with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano, spread it on a sheet pan and pop it in the oven, turning them about halfway through.
The small chicken pieces will dry out if overbaked, so, if the protein is done before it browns nicely, I turn on the broiler and move the rack up closer to that high heat for just a minute or two. That usually does the trick.
This tzatziki recipe, which calls for, among other things, grated cucumber, is one I learned from Ginny Zissis, who helps to put on the delicacy-filled, three-day New Orleans Greek Festival each May. She walked me through the simple process, stressing that a key to success is squeezing as much of the juice from the coarsely grated cucumber as possible.
I love cucumber water, so I like to squeeze the vegetable over a small bowl. Then, I refrigerate the juice and use it to flavor fizzy water.
Find the thickest yogurt possible for this dip. If yours isn’t thick, you can strain it through a cheesecloth over a bowl, but it can take about an hour or so to significantly reduce the moisture.
The bright flavors in the dip come from the fresh dill and the three cloves of fresh minced garlic. If you’re not a garlic fiend like I am, consider adding just one or two cloves.
This cool dill yogurt dip, known as tzatziki, complements the hot-from-the-oven, herby hot chicken. Create a dinner platter by adding warm pitas and your favorite accompaniments, such as fresh onion, tomato and kalamata olives.
Note: If using bamboo skewers, soak them in a shallow pan of water for 30 minutes before cooking.
Storage Notes: Leftover chicken and dip can be refrigerated in separate containers for up to 3 days.
SOUVLAKI-STYLE CHICKEN WITH TANGY YOGURT DIP
Active: 45 minutes | Total: 55 minutes
FOR THE YOGURT DIP
1/2 large cucumber, peeled
1 cup plain whole-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
FOR THE CHICKEN
11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
11/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for squeezing over chicken
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sliced yellow onion
Pitted kalamata olives
Make the yogurt sauce: Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Grate the cucumber on the coarse side of the grater and transfer to a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Squeeze gently but firmly to press out most of the liquid.
In a medium bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, dill, garlic, vinegar and oil, and season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate while you make the chicken. (You should have about 1 1/2 cups of dip).
Make the chicken: Place the oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element and heat the broiler on high. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Using a sharp paring knife, trim any fat from the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces, 1- to 1 /2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in the seasoning until coated.
If using skewers, thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, so the pieces are touching, about 6 pieces of chicken on each skewer. Place the skewers on the baking sheet and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, turning them over with tongs halfway through cooking, until the chicken begins to brown. (If not using skewers, spread the chicken on the baking sheet and follow the same broiling instructions.)
Transfer the chicken to plates and squeeze the lemon over them.
Serve the chicken and yogurt sauce with warm whole wheat pitas, sliced yellow onion, lemon wedges, tomatoes wedges and olives.
Nutrition (analysis does not include tzatziki yogurt dip) | Calories: 270; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 125 mg; Sodium: 150 mg; Carbohydrates: 0 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 38 g.
(Chicken recipe adapted from FoodandWine.com; tzatziki recipe adapted from Ginny Zissis, director of the New Orleans annual Greek Festival.)