I don’t really remember when I first had Greek food, but I suspect it was in a mall food court somewhere in Florida. At this point, I feel like it’s been a regular part of my diet most of my life. Unsurprisingly, the best Greek food I’ve had has been in Greece, but it is, happily, a cuisine that can be made anywhere. For all its many differences from Italian food, it shares a number of characteristics with that cuisine, above all the simple treatment of good ingredients. I’ve eaten salads in Athens with tomatoes so fresh and flavorful that I firmly believe that hothouse tomatoes should be outlawed by international treaty. Outside of Corinth, I was served simply prepared pork chops for which I would have gleefully committed murder. I should probably not mention a certain dish of shrimp saganaki in the fabled city of Thebes. Most of the diners at our very full table took a shrimp or two from the hot dish and left the sauce. Once I tasted it, I signaled a friend sitting next to me that she should try the sauce. Once she did, one of us grabbed a basket of bread; leaning over the pan of sauce as if we were discussing something very serious and private, we scooped up the sauce as if it were the last food that would ever be available. I had some reservations that we should have shared more widely, but, more importantly, I had priorities.
You don’t actually have to visit the famous cities of Greece to eat good Greek food–although I do recommend it. The recipe below looks complicated but is in fact quite simple. It has the added advantage that almost everything cane be done in advance. The hardest part is making sure that you cut the chicken into equal-sized pieces so that they cook evenly; the ingredients are easy to find. The recipe fairly closely follows the one in How to Roast a Lamb (by Michael Psilakis). Serve with tsatziki, pita, and a Greek or Mediterranean-style salad, recipes for which will be posted soon.
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 quart cold water
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 shallots sliced
For the skewers
- kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- Mix brine ingredients in large ceramic bowl.
- Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and immerse in brine. Refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours, preferably 12.
- Remove chicken pieces from brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.
- Put chicken in resealable plastic bag (gallon-size) with marinade ingredients. Seal the bag, making sure there is very little air left in it.
- Massage chicken so that all pieces come into contact with marinade. Put bag in a large bowl and refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours, preferably overnight.
- About 30 minutes before cooking, thread chicken pieces on metal skewers (or wooden skewers which have been soaked in water), about 5 pieces per skewer.
- Sprinkle skewers with salt and pepper.
- Grill over direct medium heat for about 7 minutes, turning once.
- Transfer chicken to a serving bowl and serve with tsatziki.
Adapted from How to Roast a Lamb, pp. 74-75.
You can easily double the amount of chicken while still using the same amount of brine, but the marinade should be doubled.
You can add pieces of onion or bell pepper between the chicken pieces on the skewers.