08 April 2011

Spicy Yogurt Chicken and Zucchini Gratin

I feel like I need to confess something.  Looking at the title of the blog and the recipes I've posted, one might imagine I am exploring Portuguese cooking with every meal we eat.  Errrr...

Yes, we are in Portugal. Yes, I have a Portuguese husband who likes to be fed, and yes, I try to make him things he finds comforting, familiar, and appetizing.  Sometimes.

But most of the time?  Bacalhau Boy survives on American cooking.

Luckily for him, that encompasses, oh, every type of cuisine the world has to offer. Spaghetti bolognese, and pierogies, and sushi, and burritos, and sesame noodles, and beef stroganoff, and falafel, and chicken vindaloo... and yes, some darn good burgers and fries, too. I'm not sure whether America is more of a "melting pot" or a "tossed salad", but either way, can it be coincidence that the metaphors for our multi-ethnicity are related to food??

So, to the (constant) surprise of Bacalhau Boy, we tend to eat from a grab bag of ethnic flavors.  Last weekend was one such meal: Greek-Thai Spicy Yogurt Chicken and French Zucchini Gratin.

I used chicken thighs, with the skin on.  THAT, I suppose, is a real Portuguese influence here since "coxas" (thighs) are a flavorful, abundant, and cheap cut.  In any event, the marinated chicken smells heavenly while it roasts, and the skin is tasty and crunchy and yum.

The Greek influence is in the yogurt marinade, and originally this recipe used Greek herbs for flavoring as well.  That sounded yummy, but I couldn't resist spiking it with Thai sriracha sauce instead.  My only regret?  Next time I will put even more in.  The sweet/vinegary/bright spiciness is absolutely delicious with the yogurt's slightly sour (in a good way) influence on the meat.

One warning: this chicken recipe takes a few steps and more than a few pans.  Between the marinating, the browning, and the roasting, I had three rounds of dishes to wash.  So... probably better to make this recipe if you have children old enough to take on dishwashing duty??

The side dish for the chicken was a zucchini gratin straight from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  OK, so she calls them "courgettes."  Either way, you will be thanking me for this recipe later in the summer when you have a bounty of zuc-courgettes from your garden and have run out of ways to cook them.

The secret here was tossing the sautéed zucchini with breadcrumbs before baking. It adds a great texture to the dish and bulks it up as well.  And while I don't like to monkey with Julia's genius too much, I did throw in a good big bunch of chopped Italian parsley, since I had it laying around.  It gave the dish a fresh herb flavor which made the spring afternoon seem even more spring-y.

I hope you enjoy your own international experimenting, and as Julia's Portuguese cousin might say: Bom Apetite!

Spicy Yogurt Chicken
adapted from Eating the Greek Way
serves 4

8 chicken thighs, or 4 thighs and 4 legs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 diced cloves of garlic
1 tbsp Sriracha or other hot sauce (add more if you really like HEAT)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).  Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a roasting pan, and place in the oven while it preheats, and while you prepare the chicken.

Mix the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Sriracha, and cinnamon in a bowl.  It will look a bit funky-- that is normal. Toss the chicken in the marinade and set aside at room temp for 20 minutes.

When about 5 minutes are left of marinating time, heat a deep frying or sauté pan over a medium high heat.  Add the butter and cooking oil, melting until the butter stops bubbling.  Add the chicken and cook on all sides until golden brown, in batches if necessary.  This should take about 5-8 minutes per batch.

Once the chicken is browned, put the pieces in the preheated roasting pan, skin side up.  Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper to taste.  Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Courgettes Gratinées à la Milanaise
(a.k.a. Zucchini Gratin)
from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, v. 2
serves 4

3-4 medium zucchini blanched, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup Panko or other finely ground breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 425F (220C).

Dry the zucchini pieces with a paper towel and then sauté, tossing frequently, in hot olive oil and garlic until just tender and very lightly browned.  Remove from heat and toss with the breadcrumbs and parsley.

In a buttered 8-cup baking and serving dish (or something similar), add a sprinkling of the cheese, then a layer of the zucchini, then a layer of cheese, and so on, ending with a layer of cheese on the top. (I had 2 zucchini layers worth of ingredients.)

Pour melted butter on top of the casserole, and bake for about 15 minutes, just until the top is golden and the cheese is melted.


  1. Ok, I call cheat. No bacalhau in this recipe! :)

    But boy, I got to tell ya, those are some yummi looking "coxas"

    And with a side of my favorite veggie (zucchini), this might be me new favorite meal... or as Tony Burdain would call it: "death row" meal


  2. Hee! You are so nice, and I am glad you like the meal, Tony, even if the lack of bacalhau disappoints you! But I can guarantee, there will be plenty of non-bacalhau recipes mixed in here. (Sorry.) But I will have at least one bacalhau a week, too.

    If you try the zucchini, let me know how you like it!! :)

  3. Hi. This looks yummy, and as MOH doesnt like courgettes, Im constantly looking for ways to try to tempt him to enjoy them as we always have tons... best wishes

  4. Yummo! Well, I'm hungry now, as I am a whore for zucchini in all it's glorious and gratinized forms.

    Also, I always thought "melting pot" referred to the process by which one would make steel, although now that I read your post, I think I was confusing smelting with melting. Damn you, words that sound alike but have different meanings!

  5. Thanks, Pat! Hope this makes it into your courgette repertoire...

    McBanks, I thought the same thing about the steel, but I decided it also applied to fondue and other foods, and dang it I would use it anyway. Glad you remember the verb "to smelt"-- I feel perfectly justified now!