Chicken and Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs

Adding chicken to the iconic Greek Lemon-Oregano potatoes creates a dish very few people can resist. The potatoes by themselves often steal the show from any kind of meat they accompany, even from roasted lamb; baked together with chicken legs or breast they become the ultimate one-pot dish for every season.

 

I baked it in a very old copper casserole, over several layers of parchment paper, as the traditional inside lining of the is somewhat worn, and there are very few itinerant craftsmen to renew it.

This dish is particularly good on islands like Naxos, or here on Kea, where the local potatoes have exceptional flavor. If you want to cook this dish using small potatoes there is no need to peel them, but I suggest that you halve them, because they taste best when they can absorb the flavorful juices.

 

Makes 4 to 6 servings (more…)

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Chicken with Sour Cherries and Onions

An easy and delicious dish that combines Eastern Mediterranean and Asian traditions.

The tart sour cherries are traditionally cooked with meatballs in Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and since I love the combination of fruit with all kinds of meat, I thought chicken would be great with cherries. Boned and skinned chicken thighs cook fast, so the cherries don’t lose their bright color when the dish is done.

Last but not least, I balance the cherries’ tartness with plenty of sliced Kea onions which are wonderfully sweet.  

 

 

I marinate the chicken with soy sauce and wine, as I do when I make a stir-fry, and this adds an extra layer of flavor.   

 

Serve with just fresh crusty bread, or with toasted pita triangles, like Anissa Helou’s Kabab Karaz. Great with a simple bulgur pilaf, as well as with mashed or roasted potatoes. In the winter it is ideally complemented with David Tanis’ Baked Polenta.   

 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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Chicken Kleftiko with Vegetables Wrapped in Parchment Paper

This simple chicken recipe is inspired from Arni Stamnas, baked in an unglazed clay jar called stamna, which was used by women to bring water from the village fountain. The story goes that some women secretly fed their sons or husbands who were guerrillas in the mountains, during the war of independence from the Ottomans in the 19th cen. by leaving water jars filled with food near the fountain. In the night, the men came secretly and collected it.

Since the water jar has a small opening, small pieces of meat and vegetables were inserted in the jar, which was then sealed with dough and slow-roasted in the wood-fired oven.

 

On the other hand,Arni Kleftiko (Guerillas’ Lamb) is a variation of the previous recipe. It was a simpler dish the guerillas prepared and baked in holes in the ground, where just a few charcoals warmed the stones keeping a slow, smokeless fire that didn’t betray their position, as they roasted pieces of lamb or goat wrapped in leaves and goat or lamb skin. ‘Kleftiko’ included small pieces of aged, spicy cheese, and is flavored with lemon and herbs. Unfortunately the Kleftiko most taverns make today, has lots of mostly melted cheese and it is far from the original recipe, I feel. 

 

The version of Arni Stamnas’ I puiblished in my first book was given to me by Electra Kalamboka from Kavalla in northern Greece, and it is obviously a more contemporary recipe with tomatoes, which came to be a common ingredient in Greek cooking around the end of the 19th cen. after Greece became an independent country.  

Somehow merging the two previous recipes, to cook chicken wrapped in parchment paper. Placing the wrapped food in a clay pot enhances the flavors, as it slows the roasting even further.

 

 

Serve with bulgur pilaf, or with plain olive-oil-and- pepper spaghetti or orzo, dousing the pasta with the delicious Kleftiko juices.

 

 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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Braised Chicken with Beet Greens in Avgolemono Sauce

We love to make this delicious, yet very simple dish with the greens and stems from the local beets that we get on Kea almost all through the winter, until early in the spring. Manuela, my neighbor often gives me beets from her garden that are especially delicious. Later in April, as the actual beets get tough, we only cook the greens, as we would spinach, chard, or any other local leaves. 

The sweet beet greens are especially delicious flavored with the tart, avgolemono sauce.

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Chicken Soup Avgolemono

Egg-and-lemon-thickened chicken soup is the iconic, typically Greek variation on a much-loved, comforting, winter soup.

It is the traditional one-pot Christmas dish on Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands. Christmas in the Greek islands is not the big feast celebrated in the United States or northern Europe: Easter and the Virgin Mary’s Assumption (August 15) are the important island festivals.

 

The addition of ginger and a piece of lemon peel is my twist on the basic recipe I got from my mother. I think their flavor and aroma deepens the broth’s taste. I prefer making the soup lighter, with vermicelli instead of rice, or even plain — just the broth and pieces of chicken. In that case you may want to add one more egg if you want to make it thicker, creamier.

Sometimes instead of chicken meat,  meatballs such as the Scallion Meatballs,  are cooked in a chicken or meat avgolemono  soup.  

 

 

Until the late 1960s, chicken was considered a great delicacy on the islands. It was the most expensive of all meats and, except for important feasts, it was usually reserved for children and the sick as the lighter of all meats.  The free-range chickens or capons of Greece need a long time to cook, and even then, their flesh can sometimes be tough and stringy. But they make the most delicious soup or youvetsi.

Instead of chicken you can make the soup with de-fatted broth from beef bones or make an exquisite fish soup (psarosoupa) boiling down fish heads, bones, and small fish. I try to always have various homemade stocks in my freezer so that I can make not just soups, but flavor risotto and all kinds of sauces.  

 

 

 Makes 6 to 8 servings as a first course, about 4 to 5 as a main course 

(more…)

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