We’ve got no problem with grilled hot dogs and burgers. But if you’re looking for an awesome grilled treat that’s also easy to make, healthy, delicious and sorta ethnic, look no further than souvlaki (which is basically Greek for skewered meat). To find out how to make top-notch souvlaki, we enlisted the help of Stella Likitsakos, a 30-year souvlaki vet and the “Mama” in MamaGyro Greek restaurants in New York City. Here’s her advice for whipping up some chicken souvlaki that would make an Athenian bow down. Pay attention to Mama!
“Don’t start cooking the chicken on the charcoal grill. It’ll get burnt on the outside and not cooked on the inside. Then you’ll have to throw it away because it’s garbage.”
Be a breast man.
“Here we use chicken breast,” says Likitsakos. “You can also use chicken thigh, but chicken breast is better because it has less fat, so it’s healthier.”
Give it a good marinade.
“Cut the chicken into cubes, put it on a bamboo skewer or a stainless steel skewer and marinate it in the refrigerator overnight. For our marinade, we use garlic, onions, paprika, canola oil, salt and pepper and a little lemon juice. Too much lemon juice and the meat will get too tough.”
Could probably use a few more onions, but it looks like a pretty good marinade.
Start it on a flat grill.
“The best way—and the only way—to cook the meat is to start it on a flat grill or a pan. Heat each of the four sides of the chicken over high heat for two to three minutes, until it’s a light brown, then take it off. That will keep the juice inside.”
Then get your charcoal on.
“Transfer the chicken to a charcoal grill or an electric grill. Cook each side for another three minutes until it’s golden brown, sprinkling on lemon juice and oregano for more flavor. But again, don’t start cooking the chicken on the charcoal grill. It’ll get burnt on the outside and not cooked on the inside. Then you’ll have to throw it away because it’s garbage.”
Eat it however you want.
“Then take it off the grill and eat it. You can eat it right off the stick. You can put it on pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce and eat it like a sandwich. You can eat it with rice, tomatoes and onions… spinach and couscous. However you want. To drink with it? A Greek red wine. Or an American wine. Or a beer. It doesn’t matter.”
Try a different meat. Or a non-meat.
“We also do hanger steak and pork. Other people do lamb. Or it doesn’t even have to be meat. You can do souvlaki with fruits like cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapples—any of the hard fruits. Or you can do it with vegetables like zucchini, onions, red pepper, mushrooms. You go straight to the charcoal grill with those.”
Souvlaki by Stella Likitsakos. With an assist from Vicki Likitsakos (a.k.a. DaughterGyro).