The Taste of the Taverna
To the taste buds of most people, the foods that generally come to mind when “Greek” is mentioned are usually gyros, lamb, “flaming cheese” (aka saganaki) and of course chicken.
Greek-style chicken has been a common staple of the cuisine and a favorite of both the Greeks and the non-Greeks alike. Lord knows how many Tavernas (like the one above) all over world serve plenty of it on a daily basis. Even I have been surprised just how many cultures outside of Greek love this chicken…even to the point that friends request I make it for get-togethers.
The real secret to the flavor is in the marinade. The actual application of heat is necessary, but not the vital part. The marinade is what makes the meat tender, juicy, and flavorful You could take the ingredients below and rub them all over chicken, but the finished product will not stand as well as chicken that’s been marinated for at least six hours.
Some like to make marinades that are a small amount of liquid and seal up meat in a bag with it, letting it catch the vapors. That’s all good, but I am more a fan of submerging meat in liquid for eight hours or overnight and then cooking. The end goal is you want that meat to soak up the oil, wine, lemon, and spices like a sponge and taste it in every bite.
Without further ado, let’s get on with how it’s done:
- 1 tbsp of granulated garlic
- 1 tbsp of oregano
- 1 tsp of rosemary
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 2 tsp of salt (sea salt is preferred)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/2 of a lemon
- 1 cup of white wine
- 3 lbs of chicken
- Take a container you can close and seal. If none is available to you, then use a pot with a lid or even a food storage bag you can zip shut.
- Add the garlic powder, oregano, rosemary, pepper, salt, olive oil, and white wine to the container. Give it all a stir to mix it all up.
- Squeeze the juice of lemon into the mix and stir a few times. I’ll usually put the half of the lemon into the marinade after squeezing and let it soak with the chicken.
- Place the pieces of chicken into the marinade. Make sure the chicken is coated with it all.
- Close/seal the container and place in the refrigerator for at least six hours. Overnight is a more preferred time frame.
- Cook the chicken as you see fit. (See cooking options)
How you cook the chicken is entirely up to you, because there isn’t a lot of right or wrong to it.
For the chicken I am showing in the photo, I took the breasts and cut them in half by thickness before putting them into the marinade. Some breasts are just big and you can make a lot more servings that are less calories by slicing them in half by thickness.
After marinating I heated up a frying pan on high and seared the breasts (one minute per side) before placing them into a baking pan. When the searing was finished I poured some of the marinade out of the container into the baking pan with the chicken, covered the pan in aluminum foil, and baked the chicken in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.
Another variation would be to grill the chicken. Just toss it on the grill either inside or outside and cook it until it’s done. Skinless or skinned, it works well and is how many Tavernas would do chicken. Broiling also works just fine. It’s how many restaurants would cook the chicken.
Once I actually soaked a whole chicken overnight and then set it up in “beer can” style. In the metal can I filled it halfway up with the leftover marinade as opposed to beer. Worked beautifully.
I didn’t specify what kinds of chicken to use because it’s really up to you based on your tastes. The image above is of boneless/skinless breasts, but you can do skin-on chicken pieces, breasts, legs, thighs, any part that you like.
I didn’t specify what specific white wine to use as well. It really depends on your taste. I did the above chicken in Pinot Grigio, but I’ve also done the chicken in Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. I’d just refrain from using any sweet wines or blush wines.
You’re welcome to use fresh garlic if you desire, but I prefer granulated garlic in this case. I want the garlic to dissolve into the marinade and then soak into the chicken. I’ve done this before with fresh garlic, but didn’t taste it in the chicken as much when cooked.
You can search online and find probably a million different variations of Greek-style chicken, so go with what you desire. Some do not like to add salt to the marinade, claiming it will dry out the chicken, but I have yet to see that happen. Some do not use wine at all. Some will use thyme as opposed to rosemary, some use both. Play around a bit and see what flavors you like.
You go to any restaurant or Taverna, and they will usually serve the chicken with rice and/or oven baked potatoes with a side of cooked vegetables and/or a salad.
I’ve sliced it thinner and make sandwiches with it, cut the meat into strips and served it as an appetizer with barbecue and tzatziki sauce. These breasts I’ve been slicing into strips and placing it on top of fresh greens as a nice salad.