Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rosie Makes Tzatziki With Blackened Chicken.

 Youngest Hawthorne waltzed in the other day and said, "Mama, you think you can make me some blackened chicken tzatziki for lunch today?"  Honestly, I don't know where he comes up with some of this stuff.  But I said, "Sure, why not?  I'll just table those precious little ortolans I was planning for another day."  And here we are, with Blackened Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce.

 I’ve cut chicken breasts into strips, blackened them with a spicy rub that offers a bit of heat, then I’ve tempered the kick with a cooling and refreshing tzatziki sauce, a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.

The beauty of this combination is that both the chicken and the sauce are versatile. The chicken can be used in tacos, salads, bowls, wraps, or sandwiches, and the tzatziki sauce can be used as a dip for vegetables, chips, or pita crisps, or it can be a surprise replacement for a spread, such as tartar sauce or mayonnaise. There are all sorts of possibilities here, but the marriage of spicy blackened chicken and zesty tzatziki sauce is a perfect coupling.

Rosie's Chicken Tzatziki
Tzatziki Sauce 
1 English cucumber,  shredded and drained
5-6 garlic cloves
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 cups plain yogurt, drained  (Use full fat Greek yogurt.  Don't skimp here.)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 TB chopped parsley
freshly ground pepper, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
For the cucumber, I haphazardly peel it, leaving dark green peel in places, because I like the green flecks in the sauce.  Use a box grater to shred the cuke.  Place the shredded cucumber in a strainer, lightly salt it (1/2 tsp kosher salt), and let it drain, pressing it down every now and then to remove excess water.  Drain for at least an hour, then squeeze out any remaining liquid.

Plop the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and let it drain, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so.  Discard liquid.

Combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors do their thing.
Before serving, drizzle a little extra virgin olive over top for extra flavor.
One of my favorite extra virgin oils is Corto Truly, which I've only found available online (Amazon). If you're unsure what to use, I advise going to an olive oil store where you can taste-test the oils before buying and pick out something you really like.  Dill-flavored olive oils are also available, so that, too, would be an option here, and it would complement the fresh dill in the sauce quite nicely.

The tzatziki is a great little sauce to use for all sorts of stuff - with a crudité platter, with grilled meats and vegetables, pita, gyros, chips.

Blackened Chicken Strips
2 chicken breasts
Pound the chicken breasts until about 1/2" flat.  Cut into 1"-wide strips.  You want your strips a uniform size so they cook evenly.

Combine the seasoning mixture:
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
Dredge chicken strips in spice mixture, coating evenly.

In medium skillet, heat a thin layer of peanut oil to 450°- 475°.  Add a tablespoon of butter and let it sizzle.  The oil is for the high smoke point; the butter is for flavor and giving the strips a more blackened appearance.  Add in the chicken, without crowding the pan and lowering the temperature.   Cook 2-3 minutes each side.  Do not overcook your chicken.

If you have a meat thermometer, remove the chicken when it gets an internal temp of 160° and let it rest.  Carry-over cooking will finish them off outside the pan, so they reach 165°, but don't dry out.
For the step-by-steps:

Drain the yogurt.
  Pour it into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and let it drip, stirring occasionally.

I let the yogurt 
drain for at least
an hour.

Coarsely grate 
the cucumber.

Set in sieve.

Lightly salt the cucumber and let it drain, occasionally pressing out the liquid.

Parsley, dill, rice vinegar, lemon, yogurt with cucumber and minced garlic.


as needed.










Pool in a little extra virgin olive oil and you've got a delicious dip.

You can use the dip for vegetables, pita chips, crackers, whatever.

While you're dipping into the dip, start preparing the chicken.

Pound breasts until uniform thickness, then dredge through seasoning mixture and fry. Slice for serving.


Cut the breasts into 1-inch wide strips.

Dredge strips through seasoning mixture.

Just a thin layer 
of oil and
some butter.

2-3 minutes
first side
then turn.

2-3 minutes
second side.
Depends on
heat and thickness.

Let rest.

Slice strips.

For toppings, I have sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes, and sliced lettuce.0

If you like, add in some black beans and rice.

For serving:
I always like to provide edible plates, so I fried up a flour tortilla to place my blackened chicken on, which I first sliced into bite-sized pieces. I topped with diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded lettuce and then spooned on the tzatziki sauce. Additional accoutrements you might consider would be diced avocado doused with lime juice, black beans, and/or rice.

If nothing else, do yourself the favor of making the tzatziki sauce and explore all the possibilities for dipping and spreading. The tzatziki is a great little sauce to use for all sorts of stuff – with a crudité platter, with grilled meats and vegetables, pita, gyros, chips. Just use a bit of creativity.

For example:
Try a spread of tzatziki on a BLT sandwich instead of the mayo.
Or you could thin it out with more olive oil and lemon juice and use it as a salad dressing.
Traditionally, tzatziki is paired with lamb, but it would go well with all sorts of meats, particularly grilled kabobs.
Try topping a hamburger with tzatziki sauce for a little something different and special.
Toss a macaroni salad with green peas, colorful diced bell peppers, red onion, and fresh herbs with tzatziki sauce.
Top a spinach and feta omelet with tzatziki.
Accompany any type of fish – baked, grilled, or fried – with tzatziki.
Or substitute tzatziki for the sour cream on a baked potato.

A little imagination goes a long way.


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