An overnight marinade makes these lemon buttermilk chicken skewers impossibly tender, and they get a extra flavor boost from the rosemary tzatziki sauce.
I’m determined to give everything a ‘skewer moment’ here on the blog, and today it’s chicken’s turn. I’ve already made beautiful SALMON, STEAK, VEGGIE, and TOFU skewers in the past, and I’m convinced it’s the quickest, healthiest meal out there. Threading chunks of meat, poultry or fish onto skewers allows you to serve smaller portions in a fun and flavorful way. Just add a starch and a green veggie and you’re golden.
Skewers give you that outdoor grilling feel any time of the year, right inside the kitchen, I use a grill pan to brown the skewers and then finish them in the oven. You can do them entirely in the oven if you like. The secret here is the buttermilk. The marinade tenderizes the meat and guarantees a nice brown crust on the surface of your chicken, and that guarantees lots of flavor. That marinade also allows you to split up the work for this meal — make the sauce ahead too, and dinner will be a breeze to put together.
Tzatziki is a cooling Greek yogurt sauce that goes perfectly with the grilled chicken. There are lots of regional variations all over the Mediterranean, but it’s usually made with yogurt, cucumber and garlic. Mine is a simple blend of yogurt, lemon, and rosemary. I have a huge bush right outside my front door, and I pluck the tender new shoots — they combine with the yogurt into a pale green sauce with a really nice piney flavor.
- 2 chicken breasts (or about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 4 lemons
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup regular yogurt (not Greek)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 Tbsp (approximate) fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- pinch salt
- Cut the chicken into large chunks of equal size. Aim to get about 16 pieces so you will have four chunks per skewer. Put them in a large zip lock baggie, or a large bowl.
- Whisk together the buttermilk, the juice of one lemon, and garlic, and pour over the chicken. Make sure all the chicken is coated, then seal the bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours or preferably overnight.
- To make the sauce, put the rosemary leaves in a small food processor and pulse to chop. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Taste to adjust any of the ingredients. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
- Set oven to 400F and line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
- Slice the remaining lemons on the 1/8 inch setting of your mandoline slicer. You can use a sharp knife, but make sure the lemons are sliced thinly enough that they are pliable.
- Thread four skewers with alternating chunks of chicken and two slices of lemon. I fold the lemon in half before threading onto the skewer.
- Heat a grill pan over medium high heat until quite hot. Brush the pan lightly with oil and brown each skewer for a couple of minutes per side, until nice and brown. Transfer to the sheet pan and finish cooking in the oven, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your chicken chunks.
- Serve immediately, drizzled with the sauce.
- Does the buttermilk marinade really tenderize chicken? Yes, it contains enzymes that break down protein, and that results in tender chicken, the longer you leave it, the better — up to 24 hours. The buttermilk that clings to the surface also helps to create a wonderful browning when it cooks.
- Line your pan with foil or parchment for easy clean up.
- I kept my skewers simple, but you could add chunks of onion, mushrooms, or colorful bell peppers to yours.
- Use boneless skinless chicken thighs if you prefer dark meat.
- Don’t use dried rosemary, fresh is essential. If you don’t like rosemary, substitute dill, garlic, or mint.
Don’t forget to PIN IT!
This is the Calphalon grill pan (left) I use, I like it because it’s non stick and gives really nice grill marks to whatever I’m making. If you want to cook several skewers at once, the long Lodge cast iron pan works great too. I use a sturdy Cuisinart mini food processor for tons of small jobs, including the tzatziki sauce. The Mandoline slicer stays on my counter, I use it almost daily!