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Dorothy Dean presents: Swap traditional lamb with chicken for National Gyro Day

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 23, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Editor’s note: This is the final “Dorothy Dean presents” by Audrey Alfaro. We will miss her incredible weekly recipes and photographs and wish her the very best of luck in her new endeavors in South Dakota. “Ricky Webster presents” makes its debut in Food next Wednesday.

Welcome to September – and, more importantly, National Gyro Day! Hailed annually Sept. 1, this delicious foodie holiday celebrates the savory Greek pita sandwich made with lamb, beef, pork or chicken and topped with crisp fresh veggies, tangy feta and refreshing tzatziki sauce.

Traditionally cooked on a vertical spit, the meat roasts in front of a heating element as it slowly spins. This is where its name originates, as gyro (pronounced yee-roh) is Greek for “turn.” This recipe uses chicken breasts and marinates it in a zesty blend of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, oregano, thyme, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

Cooked on a grill or stove top, the chicken is then sliced and served in a warm pita with an array of fresh toppings such as tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and lettuce. Pepperoncinis and kalamata olives are great on them, too, and feta and tzatziki sauce are a must – and this homemade version is a breeze to make.

Combining Greek yogurt, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice (that’s seasoned to taste with salt and pepper) with diced cucumber and dill, it’s deliciously cool, creamy and versatile. It can be used as a dip for chips or veggies, as a sandwich spread and alongside grilled meats. It pairs perfectly with my Greek meatloaf recipe at spoonandswallow.com.

The chicken breasts can be swapped with thighs or tenderloins, and flatbread or naan bread can be used instead of pita. Or serve the chicken over salad, in a wrap or in a rice or grain bowl. You’ll be the gyro in everyone’s kitchen (groan)!

Chicken Gyros

2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (3-4 breasts)

For the marinade:

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, juiced and zested

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, full fat

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon pepper

For the tzatziki:

1 English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and finely diced

Kosher salt

2 cups plain Greek yogurt, full fat

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ lemon, juiced

Fresh cracked pepper

⅓ cup fresh dill, chopped

For serving, toppings are optional:

4-6 pita breads

Tomato slices

Cucumber slices

Red onion, thinly sliced

Crumbled feta cheese

Pepperoncinis

Shredded lettuce

Kalamata olives

Place the chicken and marinade ingredients into a Ziploc bag and massage to mix. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Meanwhile, make the tzatziki sauce. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside to drain, about 20 minutes. Place the drained cucumber into a cheese cloth and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Combine the yogurt, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Stir in the cucumber and dill. Cover and chill in a refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

When ready to cook, heat a grill or skillet to medium high. Add the chicken to the grill or skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until the chicken is completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Let rest, then slice the chicken into strips.

To assemble and serve, warm pita bread on a grill, skillet or in a microwave to make it pliable. Top with chicken slices, then tzatziki sauce and desired toppings.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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