We don’t eat a lot of meat in the summer. There’s so much else to eat: tomatoes and cucumbers, corn and green beans, peaches and berries, and endless amounts of zucchini. And while the advent of brightly colored summer produce is always a joy, the greens might slow down, but they don’t stop: chard, kale, scallions, radish tops, and a monster bunch of basil were all part of this week’s CSA. There is hardly enough time in the day, or room in the stomach, to fit in all the vegetables and fruits rolling out of gardens and farms, let alone add in meat.
But we do enjoy meat. And while I can easily go a couple of weeks on flavorful vegetable curries and garlicky bean soups, not noticing that we haven’t had meat since June, there is something special about cooking meat over fire in the cool of a late summer evening. Meals like this – a simple marinated chicken, a wine-sipping, spine-stretching, outdoors-appreciating few moments of grilling, and a couple of sides, cobbled together from whatever is bursting out of the fridge – make up some of my favorite summer memories.
This dish couldn’t be simpler: a basic marinated grilled chicken with classic Greek flavors of lemon, garlic, yogurt, oregano. The ingredients are readily available and probably in your pantry now. The marinade is thickened with Greek yogurt and hence, primarily flavors the outside of the meat, meaning there is no need for a long marination time. This basic marinade can work with any cut, breasts, thighs, bone-in or boneless, and I imagine would be equally delicious on turkey or pork. The resulting chicken was juicy & tender, tangy from the lemon & yogurt, with sweet oregano balanced by spicy garlic & pepper. Quick, easy, delicious. Summer.
Chicken marinade adapted from Chicken Gyros at Annie’s Eats
- 1 and 1/2 lbs chicken (I used boneless breasts)
- 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 heaping tbsp Greek yogurt (or strained, regular yogurt)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- plenty of freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the chicken and mix well until uniform. Slice chicken into even pieces (I like tender-sized pieces, as they grill evenly) slicing large pieces in half lengthwise if necessary. Add chicken to the marinade, turn to coat, and marinate, refrigerated, while you prepare the grill (I marinated about 1 hour).
- Prepare the grill. Our charcoal grill takes about 45 minutes from lighting to a banked, red, evenly hot set of coals. When coals are hot, but not flaming, add chicken to a cleaned & oiled grate (this marinade tends to stick). Place larger pieces over cooler areas on the grill, with smaller pieces, that will cook through more evenly, over the hot spots. For best grill marks, allow chicken to cook, without turning, until you start to see white creeping up the edge of the chicken piece (on my grill, about 3 – 5 minutes, but it varies wildly depending on the heat) then flip the chicken to cook the other side. Test for doneness early and often: when an instant thermometer reads at least 165 degrees F, or when there is no visible pink and juices run clear.
- Remove from grill and serve. Tzatziki, chopped tomatoes, or a simple green salad are nice accompaniments.
- If you don’t have outdoor access, or it is not grilling season, the chicken can be baked, broiled or pan-fried.
- This is a nice option for bone-in chicken as well.
- To make chicken for gyros, I would cube the chicken and place cube on soaked skewers; then lay skewers in a baking dish and pour marinade over. Grill over even heat, turning frequently.
Refrigerated, up to 5 days. Discard any leftover chicken marinade.
Grilling season (year-round!).