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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tzatziki + Simple Chicken

Not to be confused with chicken tetrazzini:

That's right, chicken! I'm surprised too. I might have been dissuaded by the can of black beans in the pantry if there hadn't been a specific request for tzatziki sauce which, obviously, goes well with chicken (or lamb). So here we are embarking on only our second or third chicken recipe. I have to tell you though, a chicken sauced with tzatziki is the perfect place to take a stand in the name of poultry.

Some research has shown that cucumbers, although humble veggies, can really make an impact. I first read about salting and draining cukes as a way of concentrating the flavor in a recipe for "Icy Cucumber Salad" in a cookbook by Kathleen Daelemans. Chopping the cucumber, salting it and then letting it rest in a colander for 5-10 minutes concentrates the flavor beautifully. Paired with creamy Greek yogurt and a few spoonfuls of sour cream and you've got the perfect stage to debut summer cukes.

This recipe was inspired by "Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009" but now with more kick! Greek style yogurt is really delicious and has a splendid whipped texture. But, that doesn't mean I like to spoon a lot of it over my oatmeal in the morning. Buying a small 6 ounce container is affordable, ranging on average from $1 to $1.50, and leaves just enough left over to drizzle with honey or stir into some curried tuna salad. Curried tuna salad? Oh, maybe later this week.

If you didn't figure it out already I would give a lot of money for a really splendid gyro with falafel and tzatziki. Some recipes call for mint but I don't think you need it here. The best tzatziki I have ever had had distinctive bite thanks in part to fresh garlic and diced red onion with nary a hint of fresh mint. Sure I had dragon breath all the way home but it was totally worth it. This sauce is awesome but a little less fiery. I just enjoyed it over chicken and a big, crispy fresh salad. But the tzatziki is versatile enough to enjoy with just pita chips/wedges as an appetizer. For about $10 you can have a really fabulous chicken with tzatziki dinner fit for any big, fat Greek wedding.

Note: the sauce shouldn't be made more than an hour or so in advance. It will begin to get watery the longer it sits.

Ingredients: Tzatziki
3/4 cup cucumber, peeled (if you prefer) and cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces plain Greek style yogurt
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon, or to taste, cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped and smashed
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 stalks green onion, green part only and sliced

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts, skinless boneless
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of half a lemon

1. Wash the cucumber. If you prefer peeled veggies use a potato peeler to remove the dark green skin. Cut it into rings, stacking them one on top of the other and then cut into small cubes.
2. Place the cucumber in a small colander on a plate and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, tossing to coat. Fill a bag with ice cubes and water and place on top of the colander for 5-10 minutes. This will allow some of the water to drain out of the cucumbers.
3. Meanwhile, peel and smash the garlic. Dice finely then press, using the side of the knife, with a little salt. This will soften it and allow it to be more like a paste.
4. In a bowl stir the yogurt, pepper, cayenne, garlic and lemon juice. Cut the white end (about 2 inches) off the green onions, storing remaining onions in a paper towel in the fridge, and slice finely. Add the green onion and sour cream.
5. Toss the cucumber into the yogurt mixture and stir. Can be refrigerated an hour before ready to use.
6. For the chicken, remove any extra fat or skin. Cut into bite sized pieces of equal size. Season with salt and pepper and the juice of half a lemon.
7. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss in the chicken and cook, without turning, about 4 minutes depending on the size of your pieces. Turn and continue cooking until opaque and juices run clear.
8. Serve the chicken over a bed of lettuce with and an extra squeeze of lemon. Drizzle with tzatziki or serve on the side with pita.


  1. LOVE tzatziki sauce! I've never thought about making it before, so I'll give it a go :D

    And since you mentioned it:

    "When me and Paul got together Dominique couldn't stand Paul, but now she coming in my house cookin' him chicken tetrazzini! All Paul talk about is her cooking. What is it? Does he want her *and* a chicken tetrazzini!!?! I don't know what she do wit da chicken tetrazzini, but Paul love it! PAUL LOVE IT! Dominique could cook, but I know she seducing my man wit a chicken tetrazzini!"

  2. mmmmmmMMMmmmm im so happy! I'm making this later in the week for SURE!

  3. Hi. Um, Sarah, thanks for feeding me tonight. And im def having gyros for dinner tomorrow. LOVE the tzatziki sauce.