This flavor-packed dish will appeal to the Mediterranean diet-followers, white meat chicken lovers, healthy food eaters, or just those who appreciate a good home meal. Chicken Souvlaki is almost always made with chunks of boneless skinless breasts, which have a marked tendency to dry out when grilled. This is prevented by swapping the traditional overnight soak in an acidic marinade for a quick 30-minute brine while the grill heats.
The chunks of chicken get tossed in a flavorful mixture of lemon, olive oil, herbs, and honey right before grilling. To prevent the end pieces from overcooking, they are protected by threading red pepper pieces on the ends. Once cooked, the chicken is tossed with reserved sauce to ensure that the exterior is nicely flavored and just as tender and moist as the interior while delivering a bright citrus punch.
Found on Cook’s Illustrated, I roughly adapted the recipe to suit our cooking needs. First, for more assertive flavor, I increased the amount of garlic in the tzatziki sauce from 1 small clove to 2 large (I mean, really?). I also introduced a red bell pepper for another pop of color and to protect the end pieces of the chicken. But most importantly, the veggies usually take longer to cook than the meat, so I threaded them on different skewers as opposed to altogether.
Grilled Chicken Slouvaki
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 large garlic clove, minced to paste (A garlic press makes quick work of turning the garlic into a paste.)
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and diced fine (1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- ⅜ teaspoon salt
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ -inch chunks
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (2 lemons)
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, quartered, each quarter cut into 4 chunks (16 pieces total)
- ¾ red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, 3 of the 4 slices cut into 2 chunks each (6 pieces total). Reserve the remaining slice for another use.
- 1 small red onion, ends trimmed, peeled, halved lengthwise, each half cut into 4 chunks (8 pieces total)
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Steamed rice (preferably in chicken homemade stock instead of water)
- 5 metal skewers
- FOR THE TZATZIKI SAUCE: Whisk lemon juice and garlic together in small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in yogurt, cucumber, mint, parsley, and salt. Cover and set aside.
- FOR THE CHICKEN: Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1 quart cold water. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- While chicken is brining, combine oil, parsley, lemon zest and juice, honey, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup oil mixture to large bowl and set aside to toss with cooked chicken.
- Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Toss chicken with remaining oil mixture. (Make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup of the mixture.)
- Thread 1 piece of red bell pepper, concave side up, onto one 12-inch metal skewer. Thread one-third of chicken onto skewer. End with one more red bell pepper piece. Repeat on two more skewers.
- Thread the red onion pieces on the fourth skewer; and the green bell pieces on the final skewer. Spray each skewer of veggies on all sides with cooking spray.
- FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to low.
- Clean and oil cooking grate. Place two veggie skewers on hot side of grill, turning a few times until charred on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Close lid between turns. Move skewers to low heat side of grill.
- Place chicken skewers on hotter side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is well-browned on all sides and meat registers 160 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes. Close lid between turns.
- Using fork, push chicken and vegetables off skewers into bowl of reserved oil mixture. Stir gently, breaking up onion chunks; cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Divide rice among 4 plates. Place chicken and veggies over the rice and serve with tzatziki sauce.
Roughly adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated