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On our recent trip to Canada, we ate lunch in a little town called Sidney, in British Columbia. While we did not have souvlaki, there were many, many restaurants with souvlaki in the name. Souvlaki must be the most popular dish in Sidney. Souvlaki is essentially grilled chicken kebabs on a wooden skewer. It’s greek street food, usually eaten directly from the skewer or with a dollop of tzatziki sauce on a pita. If you’re sitting you might also get some tomatoes and raw onions to wrap in your pita. It also makes a great weeknight dinner or weekend lunch on the grill.

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The secret to great souvlaki is in the marinade. The traditional marinade is simply lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and dried oregano, but I’ve decided to add my new favorite spice, hot smoked paprika to the mix.  I’m also using a greek seasoning herb blend that is blended locally. You can order it here or you can use dried oregano in its place. Another secret to my marinade is the garlic. I smash it in my mortar and pestle (along with a little kosher salt) to make a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just chop it finely, sprinkle with kosher salt and rub along the cutting board with the side of the knife. The salt, along with being an abrasive, will help the garlic break down into a paste.

Chicken Souvlaki

  • 3 lbs chicken breasts, cut into small-ish chunks
  • ¾ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling if desired
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 garlic cloves, made into paste or chopped very finely
  • 1 T greek seasoning or dried oregano
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 8-10 wooden or bamboo skewers, soaked in water 1-2 hours (see notes)
  • 2-3 large summer tomatoes, cut into slices or wedges (optional)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced (optional)
  • Pitas (see recipe link below)
  • Tzatziki sauce (see recipe below)

Combine chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, paprika and greek seasoning or dried oregano in a medium bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Heat grill to high heat. While grill is heating, place chicken on skewers and generously season with salt and pepper. Discard marinade. Grill chicken until well browned on all sides and internal temperature reaches 155˚. About 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken chunks. Remove from heat and serve with sliced tomatoes, onions, grilled pitas, tzatziki and drizzled with good quality olive oil.

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Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 large cucumber, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cups greek yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste or finely chopped
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • salt + pepper

Place grated cucumber on a layer of paper towels or a clean dish towel. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit on the counter for 30 minutes until liquid has leeched from cucumber. Reserve grated cucumber in a bowl. While cucumber is draining, place a paper towel or cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Pour greek yogurt in strainer and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to drain. After yogurt and cucumbers have drained, discard liquids and mix yogurt with cucumber. Add in garlic, lemon and dill, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to marry. Serve with pitas and grilled meats.

This is the recipe I use for making pitas. The recipe is for oven baked flatbreads. However, I cannot, in the heat of the summer, heat my oven to 500˚. It’s just too flippiin’ hot. I have taken to grilling them instead. For this souvlaki recipe, I would grill the flatbreads, then the souvlaki.

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Notes:

  • Even though I soak my skewers overnight, they still burn and catch on fire (see photo). The only way around that is to use metal skewers, which I sometimes do. Whichever is your preference, do that.
  • You can also use store-bought pitas.

 

 

 

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