Chicken "Gyro" with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

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Chicken "Gyro" with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

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Published prior to 2008

Have you ever had a gyro sandwich? Chances are, unless you were in a Greek restaurant (or buying from a Greek street vendor), what you ate wasn't totally true to its Greek origins. The "real" gyro is made from minced lamb that's molded into a fat log shape, skewered, and roasted vertically. Slices of the lamb are paired with grilled onions and peppers, and a cucumber-yogurt sauce, and tucked into pita bread. Sue says, "My favorite filling for soft wrapping bread is a takeoff on the traditional gyro. I've never made the lamb version at home, but prefer to use chicken breast, pounded thin and seasoned to mimic the minced, roasted, sliced lamb. It's a lot easier, and the kids are more likely to eat it."

Ingredients

1- 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast

Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
2 cups (16 ounces) plain yogurt (whole or low-fat, not nonfat, preferably without gum or other thickeners*)
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 12 ounces, about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

*Gum or other thickeners make it hard to drain the yogurt of its excess liquid; look for organic yogurt, which is less likely to include a thickener.

The Marinade
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest OR 2 to 3 drops lemon oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Called cacik in Turkey, or tzatziki in Greece, this cucumber-yogurt sauce is a ubiquitous appetizer or sauce in either of those countries, where it's served alone, or with roasted meats or fried vegetables. Very similar to the Indian raita, it's a cool and soothing concoction, the perfect counterpoint to something highly spiced.

This sauce is best made several hours (or the night before) you want to serve it.Place the yogurt into a yogurt cheese maker, or into a very fine sieve, or a sieve lined with a coffee filter. Set it over a bowl (if you're using a sieve rather than yogurt cheese maker), and let it drain for 1 hour or so; up to 3/4 cup of liquid will drain off. This helps thicken the sauce, and also mellows the acidic flavor of the yogurt. If you like, save the drained-off whey to use in baking (where buttermilk or sour milk is called for), remembering that it's quite tart in flavor.

If you're using an English cucumber, or one without waxed skin, you don't need to peel it. Mix the chopped cucumber with the salt, place it in a colander, and let it drain for 30 minutes or so. Rinse the drained cucumber with cool water, and let it drip dry.

Crush the garlic, and chop the mint leaves medium-fine. Or combine the garlic and mint in a small food processor, pulsing a few times till they're pretty finely chopped.

Remove the thickened yogurt from the drainer, and mix it with the garlic and mint. Add the drained cucumber, then the black pepper, stirring to combine. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) for the flavors to meld. Yield: about 2 cups sauce.

The Chicken
Clean the chicken breasts of any fat and cut them into strips about 2 1/2 inches wide. Place the strips on a cutting board, and pound them till they're about 1/4-inch thick. A piece of plastic wrap over the chicken while you're pounding it helps keep it from "spattering."

The Marinade
Crush the garlic, and mix it with the remaining ingredients. Spread the resultant paste over the chicken. Wrap well and keep refrigerated until ready to cook, up to 24 hours.

Assembling the Sandwiches
6 to 8 soft flatbreads
olive oil
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced cucumber-yogurt sauce

You can either grill the chicken, or saute it as follows. Heat a cast iron or other heavy frying pan over medium-high heat for several minutes, until a drop of water will bounce across the surface. Grease the pan very lightly, and place as much chicken as will fit in a single layer into the pan. Cook until the edges turn white before turning over. The chicken is thin, so this doesn't take more than about 4 or 5 minutes before it's ready to turn. Cook just until browned, then remove it from the pan. The sandwiches are good made with either warm or cold (refrigerated) chicken, so this is a flexible recipe.

Lightly brush one side of each of the breads with olive oil. Grill them, or heat them in a heavy skillet just until they're warm and pliable. Place the breads on a plate, and top them with the cooked chicken, lettuce, onion, and tomato. Add a dollop of sauce. For a more portable feast, use a square of parchment or waxed paper to roll and transport the sandwiches. Yield: 8 sandwiches.

Nutrition information per serving (no bread, 2 ounces chicken with 1/4 cup sauce and vegetables, 154g): 118 cal, 3g fat, 16g protein, 6g complex carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 38mg cholesterol, 596mg sodium, 315mg potassium, 37RE vitamin A, 8mg vitamin C, 1mg iron, 97mg calcium, 170mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XII, No. 4, Spring 2001 issue.

Reviews

1
  • star rating 01/02/2012
  • carly5414@hotmail.com from KAF Community
  • My family and I really enjoyed this recipe, but it was very involved and time consuming. The one major problem was the amount of pepper in the cucumber sauce. I love spice as much as the next person but that could easily be cut in half and still give good flavor to the sauce. The chicken was very tender and tasty! Will definitely be making this again some time.
  • star rating 11/21/2011
  • Linda from Harris, MN
  • These were very good! Aside from making the marinade and cucumber sauce ahead, they are super quick to get on the table! Only thing I would do differently next time is use a bit less mint, or even try the sauce using dill. I'll definitely make these again!
  • star rating 03/09/2011
  • adriennehalpin from KAF Community
  • This is simply delicious! The melding of the garlic, coriander, and lemon has the most fragrant aroma while you're grilling the chicken. The mint and cucumber sauce is also spot on. Gyros are one of my husbands favorites, and this is the best at home version we've seen yet.
  • star rating 01/10/2009
  • Kathy from Outta Boston
  • This wonderful chicken dish can and should be prepped the day before and then it's easy to cook and serve. I had been wanting a gyro sandwich for a while, but alas, I've not seen lamb on a vertical grill out here in the 'burbs. This was easy to do and was very satisfying. I marinated the chicken in a ziplock bag for 24 hours and used Fage Yogurt for the sauce--even though it is thick, it still sweated quite a bit of moisture. I left out the mint and it was fine. I can't wait to try it over the grill in the summer.
1