Monday, January 5, 2015

Start the Year with a Gyro!


One time, many years ago, I had to travel to Georgia for work.  The hotel I stayed in was attached to an upscale mall. I was in my early 20s, and I wasn't quite the "foodie" I consider myself now.  I was eager to try new foods, though, so I wandered down to the food court to find some dinner.  I came across a Greek takeout place in the food court, and I was intrigued by what they called a Gyro.  I had never eaten lamb, but this delicious looking thing wrapped up in soft bread was so appealing to me.  I bought it and went back to my hotel room.  As I took a bite, I thought to myself, what is this delightful meat?  What is this tangy yet fresh tasting sauce?  Can I get these in Texas?  I loved it!

Since that day, I have eaten quite a lot of Greek food.  I love it, actually.  Stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, olives, baklava, lemons, olive oil.  I love it!  Now, I have made homemade beef gyros (hard to get lamb where I live), but I saw something recently that sounded interesting to me...Chicken Gyros.  And homemade pita bread.  First, let me tell you about the bread.  Yes, it's a yeast bread and I know a lot of you are afraid of yeast.  I have made this bread twice, and it has turned out perfect both times.  It even remains soft in the fridge for a few days.  Very impressive. I'd say it's the most successful and easiest bread I've ever made.

Now on to the chicken.  I marinated the chicken in Greek yogurt, olive oil, and herbs and baked it.  It is seriously the moistest, most tender chicken I think I've ever done.  I ate all of the leftovers of this chicken over two nights and wouldn't let my family near it!  Stingy, I know.  But it's that good!  If you're a fan of Greek, this recipe is for you!

CHICKEN GYROS
FOR THE PITAS:
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
1 packet highly active yeast
2 1/2 to 3 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 T olive oil

FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 C olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 C Greek plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
14 C red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste

FOR THE TZATZIKI SAUCE:
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1 C mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
2 T dried parsley
1/2 of a large cucumber, rough chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE SANDWICH:
Chopped Roma tomatoes
Sliced black olives
Chopped romaine lettuce
Crumbled feta cheese
Sliced red onion
Cubed cucumber

Place the chicken in a large zipper bag.  Whisk the remaining chicken ingredients together and pour it into the bag with the chicken.  Mix it around and refrigerate at least two hours.

For the tzatziki sauce, place all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

For the pitas, put the yeast, warm water and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it sit about five minutes to get frothy.  Add in the remaining ingredients and knead with the dough hook until it forms a ball, adding in the extra 1/2 C of flour if the dough is sticky.  Put the dough into a large greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for about an hour. 

After the dough has risen 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dump the chicken and the marinade out on a sheet pan.  Bake the chicken for about 16 minutes and then turn it over.  Bake the chicken an additional 14-16 minutes or until it's 165 degrees internally.  Let it rest 10 minutes before slicing it.  Keep the chicken warm.

When the dough has risen, divide the dough into 8 equal balls.  Roll each ball out to about an 8-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Preheat a cast iron skillet (or other skillet) to medium high heat.  Cook them about 30 seconds on one side until they begin to puff up a lot.  Flip them over and cook another 30-45 seconds on the other side or until you get browned spots.  Flip them back over and cook about 30 more seconds to brown the first side.  Stack them in a tortilla warmer or in a covered dish to keep warm.

To serve the gyros, place some sliced chicken down the center of a pita.  Top with red onion slices, black olive slices, feta, romaine, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.  Roll them up and enjoy!

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