Grilled Greek Chicken Pitas with Tzatziki Sauce


 

Greek Chicken Skewers | Culinary Compost Recipes

This recipe can also be modified by adding red/orange bell pepper and red onion. Any way you serve it, rest assured, the presentation is stunning.

This recipe is a home-run for busy families.  I created it after examining and testing three different versions. Marinated chicken with a combination of Greek spices is skewered, then seared over hot coals and served in a warm Pita bread shell with an amazing Greek Tzatziki sauce. Minimal prep time meets maximum taste — Opa!

 

For the Chicken Marinade:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup XV olive oil
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 handful fresh oregano, stemmed and fine chopped – about 4 tbs.
1 tsp. ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
3 large chicken breasts

For the Tzatziki Sauce:
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and fine chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 small sprig fresh oregano, stemmed and fine chopped – about 1 tbs.
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

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Feta cheese
Pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
10 small, ripe garden cherry tomatoes – halved
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
6 stalks scallion with greens, trimmed and cut into 1″ chunks
Greek flat or pocket pita bread
XV olive oil

5 wood grilling skewers – soaked in water for at least 1 hour

 

Directions:

Prepare the chicken marinade ingredients and whisk thoroughly in a bowl. Cut the chicken in 1/2″ slices and place in the marinade. Mix to coat and let stand covered in your fridge for at least 3 hours. Rotate once per hour.

Prepare the Tzatziki sauce and mix well. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours so it has time to set up.

Place the wood grilling skewers in water and soak for at least 1 hour so they don’t burn when placed on the grill.

Thread the chicken onto the skewers and alternate with the scallion pieces. Ensure the chicken is secure so it doesn’t fall off the skewers. Set aside on a plate to warm up to room temperature before grilling. Discard the marinade.

When ready to grill, prepare enough charcoal for a medium-hot fire. When the coal turns white-hot, level them and brush the grilling grate with peanut oil so the chicken doesn’t stick. Place the skewers on the grilling grate and grill for 2-3 minutes per side until the chicken’s juices run clear and there is a nice, even char. DO NOT OVERCOOK!  Remove immediately from the skewers and serve inside lightly-toasted pita bread brushed with olive oil, the tomato, red onion, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives and Tzatziki sauce.

Serves 4.

Grilled Greek skewered chicken with scallion | Culinary Compost

Grilled Greek skewered chicken with scallion | Culinary Compost

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Mesquite-Grilled Steak Chili with Chorizo and Poblano


This is a dark, smokey, semi-hot chili based on two of my other grilled steak chili recipes.  The main difference here is it also features chorizo sausage. If you cannot find the bulk chorizo, you can substitute ground pork and add a bit more cayenne pepper. The marinade is similar to my recipe for fajitas. It’s a lot of work but a guaranteed success for hungry guests.

In Arizona, mesquite wood is plentiful. It grows as a small scrub-tree and can be found everywhere. No such luck here in Wisconsin. I get my wood chips at a hardware store in three pound bags. The wood smoke is essential to the flavor of this dish.

Ingredients:

For the Steak Marinade~

2 lbs. chuck or sirloin steak, slightly marbled
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1 tbs. ground coriander seed
1 tbs. liquid smoke
2 oz. tequila
fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Chili Pot~

1 lb. ground bulk chorizo or pork
2 large spanish onions, peeled and halved
2 large poblano peppers
1 whole bulb garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 14.5 oz. can black beans
1 14.5 oz. can pinto beans
1 cup strong black coffee
24 oz. beef broth or stock
1 32 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
4 tbs. tomatillo or lime juice
2 tbs. ancho chili powder
3.5 tbs. pure mild chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1 tbs. ground chipotle powder
3 tbs. ground cayenne powder, to taste
2 tbs. fresh ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tbs. ground mexican oregano

Mesquite wood chips for grilling
Paper lunch bag

Preparation:

Prepare the marinade and steak 24 hours in advance. Tenderize the steak and place in a large ziplock freezer bag. Mix the lime juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, coriander, ancho powder, liquid smoke, tequila and black pepper in a bowl until combined and pour over steak. Seal tight and place in fridge, rotating at least twice. Ensure that the steak is evenly covered  with the marinade. The lime juice will break down the marbling and make it very tender.

Heat a large 5-quart cast-iron dutch oven over medium heat and brown the pork until no longer pink. Drain off the fat. Add the coffee, tomatoes and beef stock. Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher and bring to a low simmer.

Prepare your grill with enough charcoal for a medium-hot fire. When the coals are white-hot, level them, add the mesquite wood and place the onion (lightly brushed with olive oil) over direct heat on the grilling grate until they char slightly. Keep rotating them and then add the poblanos. Ensure you get a nice char on all sides of the peppers. The onion will eventually break apart, so take care not to let the pieces slip through the grilling grate onto the fire. Remove the onion and poblanos and set aside. Place the poblanos in a sealed paper lunch bag so the tough skins sweat off.

Add the steak to the grill and char both sides lightly with the cover on for smoking. You’ll want it medium-rare in the middle. Remove and reserve on a cutting board for at least ten minutes.

Back to the chili pot –  Rinse off the charred poblano skins under cold water. Seed and dice the pepppers. Dice the onion and add both to the pot. Add the dry spices. Cut the steak into 1/2″ chunks and remove the excess fat. Add to the pot with any remaining juices. Add the tomatillo or lime juice. Saute the garlic over low heat in a little olive oil and add to the pot.

Simmer for at least 3 hours to reduce, stirring occasionally. At the last half-hour, drain the beans and add to the pot.

Makes 4.75 quarts.

Rajas de Chile Poblano – Chile Poblano Strips


This easy-to-prepare grilled topping can be used on many main course Mexican meals such as steak fajitas or pork carnitas.

Ingredients:

6 chiles poblanos, washed
XV Olive oil
1 medium spanish onion, sliced into rings
salt to taste

Directions:

Heat a charcoal grill with enough coal to produce a medium-hot fire. When the coals are white hot, place them to the side of the coal rack for indirect grilling.

Place the washed poblano chilies on the grill in the center and roast until the skins just turn black. Rotate each and char the other side. Remove and place them in a bowl covered with a towel. The skins will sweat and peel off within 15 minutes.

While the chilies are resting, place the onion slabs over the coals and brush lightly with olive oil. Cook until slightly charred. Again, turn once when roasting. Remove from the grill and place in a serving dish with the rings separated.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Gently work the blistered skin off the chilies. Cut them into 1/2″ strips and mix with the grilled onion. Salt to taste and serve.

Serving Size 4

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas


Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

No other dish comes close to the excitement and flair of a hot skillet of fajitas served for hungry guests. The aroma, sizzle and spice create a memorable experience that is perfect for just about any occasion – indoors or out. Fajitas are an Americanized version of Mexican flank steak (faja meaning “belt”.) Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak.

The fajita is truly Tex-Mex cuisine (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak — and with that bit of history, enjoy the recipe. I’ve tweaked and niggled it for over ten years.

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds skirt, flank or sirloin steak
1 huge spanish or red onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large green bell pepper or poblano, cut in strips (if using poblanos, you must remove the tough, outer skin)
1/4 cup washed fresh cilantro leaves (more for garnish, if desired)
Juice of one fresh lime
1 large ripe tomato
Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE MARINADE-
Mike’s fajita rub
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Juice of 3 fresh limes (a very effective natural tenderizer)
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup XV olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

FOR THE GRILL-
Wood charcoal (please, gas grills just don’t do this recipe justice.)
Mesquite wood chips
12×12″ aluminum foil square

 

Preparation:

Aggressively pierce the flank steak with a needle tenderizer on both sides, sprinkle generously with rub (working it in with your fingers) and place in large ziplock bag. Mix the marinade ingredients well in a bowl and add to the bag. DO NOT SLICE UP THE STEAK AT THIS POINT. YOU WILL DO THIS AFTER YOU GRILL IT. Coat well, remove the air and place the sealed bag in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Rotate occasionally.

Prepare your mesquite chips for the grill by either soaking them in water for a couple hours OR by placing them dry in a wrapped aluminum foil packet with several holes punched in the side. Either method works well. If you cannot find mesquite chips you can also use hickory.

When ready to grill, cut up your vegetables and set aside so you don’t have to rush everything at once.

Prepare the grill with real wood charcoal; when they turn white, throw on the mesquite chips. Sprinkle a little more fajita rub on each side of the steak. Grill until it is medium-rare, 7-10 minutes. YOU WILL FINISH COOKING THE STEAK IN THE PAN, so don’t worry if it’s a tad pink or even red. This is a good thing.

Remove the steak from the grill and set aside on a cutting board for FIVE MINUTES. This step is critical, as the juices of the steak will draw back into the meat. If you cut it immediately, it would dry out and be tough.

Restoke the charcoal, if necessary. Bring a large, well-seasoned cast-iron pan up to HIGH heat. There really is no substitute for cast-iron with this recipe. The intense heat will warp or burn the non-stick coating off all other pans. I also don’t like using the smaller fajita-style pans like restaurants use, as they are ridiculously small for a family-sized portion prepared in one easy batch. I prefer to place the pan directly on the outdoor charcoal grilling grate.

Add about two tbs. of olive oil to the pan and sear the onion and peppers until slightly blackened. Stir once and add the garlic.

Using a very sharp chef knife, quickly slice up the meat in 1/4″ strips at a bias, ensuring the cuts are perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Add to the pan and stir once. Top with chopped tomato and lightly salt. Add the cilantro leaves and drizzle with lime juice. Remove from heat immediately and serve on tortilla shells with guacamole and your choice of salsa.

Serves 4-6

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Don’t fret if you didn’t get it right the first time. This recipe is a lot of work and requires split-second timing during the cooking process. Practice makes perfect and you will ascend to grilling guru status in no time!

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost

Preparing Roasted Poblano Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the roasted poblano peppers.

Toasting Flour Tortillas over a Cast-Iron Comal | Culinary Compost

Toasting flour tortillas over a cast-iron comal.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.