In Santa Maria, California, where we live, the food scene flat out sucks. If you want steak, we have the best damn steakhouses around. Mexican food? Ubiquitous. We have burger joints that will make your knees shake. But beyond these types o’ places, you need to travel a bit. For example, the best Italian food, besides my house, is at Olive Garden. I suppose that I’m spoiled from living in Southern California for the first 33 years of my life. The irony is that, down in O.C., we had problems figuring out where to eat because there were too many options.
Every time I see a new restaurant getting set to open here in the SMC, I wistfully hope for something new, something different, something original, or something that will just make me optimistic about this town. But 99% of the time, it’s a fucking steak house or Mexican restaurant that opens, leaving me to curse my fate and stomp in circles in front of their “new” restaurant while talking to myself in tongues (I’ve become popular in this regard, at least).
Good Mediterranean food just can’t be found around here. If a pizza-type Greek place opens up, it usually lasts a year or two and then it folds up without fanfare. There is a place north of here, in Nipomo, California, called Antonio’s which is about as close to authentic as one could get. But it is a bit pricey for a young family, so I have to suffer without gyros and moussaka and the like. On the positive side, it gives me the impetus to branch out and start making Greek food.
I got the gyro recipe below online at http://basil-albi.blogspot.com/2011/11/chicken-gyros-with-tzatziki-sauce.html?m=1.
It didn’t have much in the way of explaining the process, but the recipe itself is a keeper. I have always wondered what made gyros taste the way they do. This recipe showed me. It’s easy and quick, too, kiddo. The grill pan gets a bit juicy, but it doesn’t burn like a BBQ sauce or Asian sauce does. An outside grill would have no problems.
Chicken Gyros Easy Peasy
Makes about 6 Gyros
Chicken Marinade Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into slices or strips
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped garlic (yes, there’s a lot of it)
1 tsp. dried oregano (I am thinking fresh would kick ass here)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
Makin’ the Marinade:
Mix everything up in a zip-lock bag or a non-reactive dish that you can cover. Put it in the fridge for an hour or until you’re ready. Mix it up every so often.
When you’re ready, take out the strips and shake off the excess marinade. Grill them over medium high heat until cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes total.
Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup of roughly chopped cucumber
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
Makin’ the Sauce:
Put everything in a food processor and pulse it until the chunks are broken down fairly well. You still want texture, so don’t go nuts on this and let it puree while you make a cocktail. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop everything finely and blend them together well. Either way, put it into a dish in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
If you’re in a hurry, get the tzatziki sauce from Trader Joe’s or someplace comparable and you’ll be fine. But, the homemade still kicks the store-bought sauce in the nuts with puissance.
Stuff to Build the Gyro
sliced red onion
Sriracha (me only, unless you too are obsessed)
Put it all together and you get this:
I made these Greek potatoes to go with this using Bobby Flay’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/greek-potatoes-with-lemon-vinaigrette-recipe/index.html.
They were unreal, but be sure to flip them regularly or you’ll have some serious charring going on. The flavor was perfect with the gyros.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013