Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mediterranean Herbed Chicken for Sandwiches

This reminds me of something a Syrian restaurateur cooked at a small place near where I was a student. He called his sandwiches, with delicious strips of meat tucked into a pocket in a small round pita-like flat bread, 'flying saucers'. Alas, his idea did not catch on, nor to my knowledge did he earn his fortune. But he produced one hell of a sandwich, which he served with a small salad dressed with a lemon-juice vinaigrette. I've since had something similar to his stir-fried chicken strips and lamb strips at Lebanese restaurants in West Africa.

Recreating these some years ago for a student friend who suddenly needed to cook for himself, I drew on some tricks I had learned for lamb kebabs. The resulting recipe, which I recently stumbled on in my notes from 1986 and updated slightly, still works for making fast, exciting sandwiches. The pita pocket gimmick still works, but a good Kaiser or other sandwich roll serves too.

This one is for boneless and skinless chicken breast, which now is frequently on sale. The ones not needed can frozen in meal-sized portions in zip-lock plastic bags, and quickly thawed in the microwave when needed for a fast meal. Lamb will work also, but is expensive to buy. You would need meat from the leg.

This will make six good-sized sandwiches. The recipe can be halved if fewer servings are needed.

Mediterranean Stir-Fried Chicken for Sandwiches Tim

4 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 small onion, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
1/4 red or green bell pepper cut lengthwise into thin strips
1-1/4 teaspoons oregano
3 tablespoons white wine
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce (not traditional, but works well)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of ground black pepper
Small pinch of cayenne
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon
6 small pitas or 3 or more large ones, cut in half; or 6 Kaiser rolls

Trim away any tough parts and excess fat from the chicken. Slice chicken into strips 1/8-inch wide. Mix well with the sliced onion, bell pepper, oregano, wine, soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and cayenne, and let marinate for 10 minutes or more.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy frying pan. Stir-fry the chicken mixture until the color of the chicken fully changes color and the onion and bell pepper are becoming tender. Taste and add salt as needed. Remove from the heat, and squeeze the lemon over the mixture, and stir to season evenly.

With your finger, carefully open a pocket in each of the pitas. Spread a light layer of mayonnaise inside the bread before stuffing with the chicken. Or use 6 pitas and roll the chicken in them after spreading them with a little mayonnaise. Alternatively the chicken can be served in split Kaiser or other rolls, lightly spread with mayonnaise.

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