Saturday, March 30, 2013

Italian Garlic Chicken

Here is a quick post for a weekday dinner. When I was young, I refered to this chicken simply as 'crispy chicken' for years. From that name, it sounds like it'd be fried chicken, which it is not. It's not breaded at all, but still delivers that satisfying, salty crunch in each bite. The skin turns golden brown and translucent, and yet each mouthful is succulent and moist. I love this chicken and, as with many things I've posted so far, it is one of the dishes I made frequently in college. It's cheap, it works on any cut of chicken with skin, but is especially delicious on thighs and drumsticks. It is composed entirely of things you should have in your kitchen already and is baked, making it an easy dish to throw together and then go about doing your laundry or watching that movie. For a real college throwback, serve with rice-a-roni. Or, have a nice salad and some crusty bread for a nicer, easy meal.

4-6 chicken legs, thighs or breasts, skin on
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Put everything in a gallon sized plastic, ziplock bag and shake it around. Use your hands through the bag to make sure each piece of chicken is thoroughly coated. Allow to marinate in the refridgerator for 15 minutes to 1 hour.

2.  Line a baking sheet with foil,  place each chicken piece on the baking pan as even spaced as possible.

3. Bake in the oven until crispy, golden on the outside and juices run clear when one piece is pierced with a knife. About 30-45 minutes.

Note: I find that ovens can actually vary a lot regardless of exact temperatures set. Your goal here is to cook the chicken all the way through at about the same rate the skin needs to crisp. To do this, you'll need to have it at a medium-low enough temperature for a little bit to cook it through. Once cooked through, feel free to turn your oven up to crisp up the skin.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicken & Eggplant Gyros with Tzaziki and Tomato Salad

I constantly crave foods wrapped in breads. Tacos and enchiladas usually top the craving list, but just under that is the gyro. I've got no idea how it's actually pronounced, and I can't say I care. It's called many things, kebab in some places, and shwarma in others. I call it a gyro and that's all.

My version of the gyro is... involved. It's a true labor of love when I make it here in China. I make the soft bread that wraps it myself. I cook and season the meat. Make the tzatziki, make a tomato salad to add, and then shred some lettuce and crumble the feta. It takes a special trip to the city to get the mint I need for the recipe. And I do it because it is so worth it.

I'll post a recipe for the bread I make for this another time, as this recipe and its fixings are already rather numerous. You can wrap yours in warm, soft pitas, and that will be just as delicious.

Chicken & Eggplant Gyros with Tzaziki and Tomato Salad


For the Eggplant-Chicken Mixture:
1 chicken breast
1 large eggplant
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
Pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp cumin


For the tzatziki:
1 cucumber
3 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp sour cream (optional, replace with yogurt if desired)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice of ¼ of a lemon (about 1-2 tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp dill
Small splash of olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the tomato salad:
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into rounds
½  a medium red onion
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
Fresh mint, about 1 tablespoon chopped

NOTE: I've grouped directions by which aspect of the gyro it makes. Really though, to streamline this process, you should start off putting your eggplant in the oven and your chicken on to boil, then go on to assemble your tzatziki and tomato salads. This will allow your filling to be in the works while you make the other parts, which come together quickly. Then, they can sit and the flavors can meld while you finish cooking up the chicken-eggplant filling. I hope that helps!

Make the Tomato Salad:
1. Slice the tomatoes into rounds so that they resemble small coins. Thinly slice your red onion, chop the mint. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl together and let sit, allowing flavors to meld for at least 10 minutes. 

Make the Tzatziki:
1. Grate cucumber on the large grate side of a box grater, and put into a medium sized bowl. Add a small splash of olive oil, the minced garlic, and the salt and stir.

2.Add the yogurt and sour cream (if using), and a small amount of lemon juice, then mix. Taste. I like my tzatziki sour, but you should adjust your lemon juice amount to your own tastes. 

3.Now add the dill, a tiny bit more salt, and some pepper. Taste and adjust.

Make the filling:
1.Preheat your oven to 375 F. Slice the top off of the eggplant, then cut through the middle lengthwise. Slice each half into thin slices and arrange on a foil lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt, then cook until the eggplant has become more transparent looking.

2.Fill a small pot with water, add some salt and bring to a boil. Drop your chicken in and boil until just cooked through.  Using a slotted spoon, take our your chicken and allow to cool a bit. Then,  either shred or slice the chicken.

3.In a pan, add about 1 tbsp of oil and the two cloves of garlic minced. Saute about 1 minute, then add both the chicken and the eggplant. Sprinkle the other seasonings over this mixture and cook until heated through and some of the moisture from the chicken and eggplant has gone. 

Warm your bread of choice. If pitas, determine whether you wish to stuff the pita or wrap with the pita. It's a hard decision, I know. Layer your tzatziki sauce, chicken-eggplant filling, and tomato salad into the pita, then top with shredded lettuce and crumbled feta. Enjoy your messy, delicious gyros!