My dad was Greek and he liked to barbecue. A lot. In fact, I cannot remember a time when this dish was not in our springsummerfall menu more than a few times. He had a fifty gallon oil drum barbecue and he’d sometimes cover all the racks in chicken prepared with this method.
To me, this is the standard Greek way of preparing meat for grilling. It’s just normal. Lemon, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. And it’s versatile. It goes on chicken. It goes on lamb (makes excellent lamb chops. I mean, excellent.). It goes on fish. Wait. I’ve BBQed squid with this marinade too. And the funny thing is that it is basically salad dressing. MMM. Salad dressing. Some of the best marinades are salad dressing.
Also, you can do it on a grill, under a broiler, roasting in an oven. My mom even did a version of this that resulted in steamed Greek chicken, which was surprisingly good considering it was . . . you know . . . steamed chicken. Because it is so simple and basic, there are any number of permutations of this recipe.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite things to grill. It’s light. It’s tasty. It goes with all kinds of dishes and salads. And boozes. Can’t forget the boozes.
There are a couple of things to note. First, unless a recipe explicitly states otherwise, I use Eureka lemons. Their flavor holds up to the other flavors in any dish better than Meyer lemons. Second, always crush the dried oregano by rubbing it between your hands, before adding it to the marinade or applying it to the meat. It makes for smaller pieces and I think it brings the flavor out a little.
- juice of two lemons
- four cloves garlic – diced, like really really diced
(I like garlic, so I put a lot on. You can use two cloves if you like. You can also substitute a half teaspoon of garlic powder. Not garlic salt. Never garlic salt. I don’t even own garlic salt.)
- two teaspoons dried oregano (the crushed stuff, not powder)
- half teaspoon salt
- half teaspoon pepper
- two tablespoons olive oil (Optional. Or you can use more if you like. Many versions of this recipe do.)
Cut up your chicken and place in a shallow dish made of something that will not react to the acid in the lemon. My dad used to cut the chicken in quarters, which meant that whoever got a breast also got a wing.
There are two ways to apply the marinade. The first is to mix the ingredients together and pour the whole thing over the chicken. The second is to put the ingredients on one-by-one, liquids first. So, you’d pour the lemon juice and the oil over the chicken. Then crush the oregano over the meaty pieces, drizzle the garlic (the dices or the powder) and sprinkle the salt and pepper.
My dad used to let the chicken marinade for about an hour or two at room temperature. That would not go over well on the Food Network, what with salmonella scaring the crap out of everybody. However, I survived, as did everyone I know that ate of chicken made thusly. I never got cramps, fever, chills, upset stomach, nausea or projectile anything. (All of which happened to me once while I was in Paris. After eating chicken, actually. But that is another story.) If you let it sit in the fridge, double the marinade time. This will make sure that the chicken gets nice and lemony. However, if you use ziplock bags to marinate the meat, cut the marinade time in half.
Now, grill, or broil or roast the damned thing. (If you use olive oil in the marinade and you grill over hot coals, keep an eye on the meat, as oil is a flammable liquid.)
When it is done, you will have a good balance of oregano and lemon that does not overpower, but compliments, the flavor of the chicken. And what fat the chicken has gives the lemonyregano flavor some nice depth. A third dimension, if you will.
Serve it with salad, roasted potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, chard, rice, rice pilaf, grilled apples, chutney. Yada Yada Yada (as cousin Dino once said – I still have a few copies of the 45). Beans, not so much. A nice lager (actually, this goes great with PBR – in a bottle of course – or some not-so-tart white wine, or maybe some retsina (if you’re into that kind of thing).