Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken Gyro AND Homemade Pitas!

Wednesday was another snow day for Nick, so we get another edition of Nick cooks - lucky me!  I am spoiled, I really do know that.

As we are a household that is becoming a bit hummus crazy, homemade pitas seemed like the natural next step.  But, to make it a full on dinner, Nick made chicken gryos - complete with a variety of toppings. While he's usually a faithful Food Network follower, he actually found these recipes a while ago on the amazing Beantown Baker's blog. As you can see, the results were amazing!

Exactly what we would find in Greece!
Without further adieu, the homemade pitas (adapted from Beantown Baker who adapted it from The Fresh Loaf)...

The necessities:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

Since we had instant dry yeast there was no activation step necessary, so all Nick had to do to get started was combine the yeast, salt, flour and sugar in a large bowl, then add olive oil and 1 1/4 cups of water and mix with a wooden spoon.  After a ball formed, he placed it on a work surface like a wooden cutting board (granite counter tops also work well) and kneaded the bread for about 10 minutes.  He then put the kneaded dough in a large bowl that has been coated with a bit of olive oil - enough so that the ball of dough could be rolled around completely coated.

Dough covered in olive oil
The bowl was covered with a damp kitchen towel and sat until it doubled in size - about 90 minutes.

Doubled Dough!
After the 90 minutes were up, he punched down the dough to release the trapped air and split it up into 8 even pieces, rolling them into individual dough balls.

Ready to become a pita
The dough balls were once again covered with a damp kitchen towel and allowed to rest for about 20 minutes.  During this time the oven and an upside-down baking sheet or cooking stone (whichever cooking surface you choose) were preheated to 400 degrees

Once the dough was fully rested, Nick flowered the work surface with a bit of flour and pressed the dough balls out into flat circular shapes, about an 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch.  If your dough is being temperamental, go ahead and cover it for another 5 to 10 minutes and try again later. 

2 pitas ready for the oven
Nick cooked these on an upside-down baking sheet and was limited to doing 2 at a time, but if your surface can hold more, go for it!  They really only need about 3 or 4 minutes in the oven to become fully baked and fluffy.  If you want yours a bit more toasted, you can bake them a bit longer - another 3-5 minutes.  After four rotations, we had some amazing looking pitas!

Homemade pitas!
Needless to say, after seeing the finished pitas I did not want to wait for the rest of the chicken gyro components to come together (I was patient, but there were definitely a few "is dinner ready?" shouts).

Using Beantown Baker's chicken gyro recipe that was adapted from Elly Says Opa, Nick got the chicken marinading.

The necessities...

1.25 lbs. chicken pieces
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper

He mixed up some minced garlic, the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt and oregano in a big Zip-lock bag.  Nick really likes using the zest from citrus fruit, so he also zested the lemon rind into the marinade as well.  When the marinade came together, he dropped in the salted and peppered chicken, mixed it all up, and put it in the fridge for an hour.

Ready for the fridge
The cafeteria at Nick's office sells a chicken gyro during lunch that is advertised as coming with caramelized onions but really just comes with regular cooked onions  He wanted to see what actual caramelized onions would be like in the final product, so he went ahead and did the slow and low cooking strategy to 2 large sweet onions in a little bit of olive oil for what seemed like forever.

Recently, I have become more sensitive to the slicing of onions.  I have no idea why, but every time I slice them I look as though I have just received the worst news ever.  And if you follow my blog at all, you'd see that I slice a whole lot of onions!  Now, imagine whatever part of the onion that gets me in the kitchen is now permeating through the entire 576 square feet of the apartment.  Needless to say, I was all teary for over an hour!  The results, however, were completely worth it.

Truly caramelized onions
These onions were so soft and sweet and totally made my quickly sauteed onions not cut it anymore!

When the time consuming aspects were done, Nick went ahead and sauteed the marinated chicken in the fry pan with a bit of olive oil in it.

Cooking chicken
He cubed up the cooked chicken into pieces that fit in the gyros nicely - about 3/4 inch.  He also sliced up some cucumbers.  Rather than making the tzatziki that was recommended in the Beantown Baker recipe, we just used the rest of the plain yogurt that we needed for the chicken marinade.  For a bit of extra spice we added some Tabasco to the mix.  The pitas had just come out of the oven, so there was no need to warm them up!

The Spread
As you can see this was an impressive spread that I took full advantage of.  I just piled it all onto the pita, folded and ate.  Note: we forgot to put out the feta, but I can only imagine that would have made it even better.

The final result!

These were delicious!!!  The star was really the pitas, and after having homemade pitas, I do not know if I could ever go back to the regular store bought variety.  If you attempt to make the pitas, I would double or even triple the recipe because you will definitely want some for later.  I am planning to have some with some hummus for a savory snack or spread some Nutella on there for a sweet treat.  Either way, I am hooked.

Obviously, if you already had the pitas of any type on hand and do not need fully caramelized onions, this dish would be a lot faster to whip up for a week night dinner.  Having been able to taste the rewards of waiting, it was completely worth the extra effort.  Nick Cooks strikes again!

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