Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lemon and Oregano Grilled Chicken Drumsticks with Tzatziki

One of my favorite food memories with my older son is taking him to the Greek restaurant in the small town we lived in when he was just a toddler.  I always ordered the same thing- kota lemonatha (grilled lemon-chicken) and an extra order of pita and tzatziki.  The chicken was always perfectly grilled and just lemony enough for my lemon-loving palate.  And the potatoes, I wish I knew how they cooked those potatoes.  Steamed or boiled in some concoction of chicken broth and lemon juice, I think, but I have yet to come even close to recreating the perfectly tender goodness of those potatoes.

My son was an adventurous eater right from the start.  Even at one he would sit next to me at the restaurant and scarf up all of my tzatziki sauce and eat every last one of my pita wedges, then go for my stewed green beans and tomatoes.  I couldn't get over how much he liked that sauce since it seemed way to strong in garlic flavor for such a young eater.  Even the wait staff would marvel at him as they brought him extra bowls of the stewed veggies on the house.

We've since moved from that small town, but I won't ever forget those wonderful, simple meals.  The tzatziki sauce is now a regular on the menu at home and I keep trying to get the chicken just right.  I think I came close with this recipe.  I use drumsticks instead of the chicken breasts that the restaurant used, but I think the flavor of the chicken is better.  Besides, aren't drumsticks just more fun to eat?  Last time I made this I had about 2 dozen drumsticks and between 4 adults and three kids we ate them all.

Pretend you're sitting on a whitewashed patio overlooking the Adriatic Sea (this is the closest I'm going to get to it) and enjoy.

Lemon and Oregano Chicken Drumsticks and Tzatziki
Adapted from, Grill Master (Williams-Sonoma), by Fred Thompson

For the chicken:
 2 dozen chicken drumsticks, skin on
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbs chopped, fresh oregano
1 tbs each chopped fresh basil and thyme
1/2 cup olive oil

For the tzatziki sauce:
1 english cucumber or 2 persain cucumbers
16 oz plain greek yogurt
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the chicken:
Make the marinade by stirring together the lemon juice, herbs and garlic.  Whisk in the olive oil then pour the marinade into a large bowl or resealable bag.  Add in the drumsticks and stir to coat the chicken.  Cover or seal the container and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (even up to 24 hours!).

When you're ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place it on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature while you heat up the grill.  Heat the grill to medium then place the drumsticks over the heat.  Grill for about 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over.  Continue to cook, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the meat registers 170 degrees (get an instant read thermometer if you don't have one, it'll save so much guesswork when measuring for doneness). Let the meat rest while you enjoy a nice glass of white wine with your family or guests.

To make the tzatziki:
Chop the cucumbers into small pieces.  Place the cucumber chunks, olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice into a food processor and pulse until the cucumber and garlic are finely diced.  Stir in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The chicken and tzatziki are wonderful served together, dipping the chicken into the sauce as you eat.  Serve with pita and a big greek salad and you've got a great summer meal.

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