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Aug 1, 2008 04:29 AM

The Glorious Foods of Greece: Meats

August 2008 Cookbook of the Month: The Glorious Foods of Greece by Diane Kochilas.

Please post your full-length reviews of meat recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number and region, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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  1. Peloponnesos Chapter
    Chicken Smothered with Onions and Feta from Barthounhoria, Pg. 33

    3 lbs. chicken pieces, salt, 1/2cup red wine vinegar are combined and set aside while the others ingredients are prepped and sauteed. EVOO is heated in a large pan then 6 red onions finely choppd are added along with salt & pepper. These are steamed in the oil for 20 minutes then removed from pan leaving behind as much oil as possible. Although 1 1/2 cups of oil is called for I used only 1/2 cup so had to add a few more tablespoons here. The chicken is added and browned then removed from the pot. Onions go back in.....chicken pieces are set on top of onions and are spooned all over the chicken. Add S & P, cover and simmer for one hour...or till chicken falls off the bone. Crumble the feta into the pot and simmer for another 8ish minutes or till the cheese has melted and a sauce is created. There's quite a lengthy cooking time with much putting in and taking out of ingredients so plan accordingly.

    The result, though, was a very satisfying dish with the flavors of the chicken and onions nicely combined. Not spicy at all and no hint of the vinegar came through. Just a nice comfort-food type dish. I served this with the Fresh Green Beens on pg. 27.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      We also made this tonight. We had top notch ingredients -- everything but the feta we bought this morning at the farmer's market, including the chicken which we bought from the egg man. Our chicken was larger than the one called for in the recipe -- a five pounder. This was a very good dish that I'd definitely make again, although it's a bit labor intensive for us. It didn't really seem like it was going to come together until we took the lid off the dutch oven to add the feta. We used three red onions instead of six, but they were very large.

      As an accompaniment we made the garlicky eggplant (which nearly everyone seems to have fixated on). This was delicious but very, very rich. We used two medium eggplants. I'd probably make this one as a main if I did it again, since it's a lot of work for a side dish, esp. in my small kitchen. Again we bought all our ingredients fresh this morning except for the staples like the vinegar and olive oil.

      This was our first time to participate in CotM, and we were very pleased. I'm currently looking through the book for more recipes, and will probably make a trip to Greektown to see if I can find some of the cheeses.

      1. re: JonParker

        Welcome to the COTM and so glad you liked the chicken, JonParker.... DK's directions are a bit labor intensive and many times you simply have to rely on your own previous cooking experiences to lead you in the direction she intends. The best thing is using wonderful local fresh produce and meats.

        1. re: Gio

          Thanks for the welcome. Some of her ideas make absolutely no sense. In the garlicky eggplant recipe, she tells you to heat olive oil in a skillet, lightly brown the eggplant rounds, then remove them and drain.

          Then, in another skillet, you brown the garlic and add the grated tomato. Why on earth should I use another skillet? I have a hot, empty, oiled skillet right there on the stove. Does she just love washing dishes?

          We did ignore that silly advice and used the same skillet, as I imagine most people do. Still, the resulting dish is delicious, so if you disregard some of her weirder directions you can come up with a tasty meal.

          1. re: JonParker

            I assumed that she meant for the sauce to be cooking while one browned the eggplant, but I was busy putting together another dish, so I also used the same skillet.

            1. re: MMRuth

              I treated them as consecutive steps rather than simultaneous, since I assumed you wanted the eggplant to both drain and cool down enough to handle while cooking the sauce, and because she has you start preheating the oven before cooking the garlic. I don't think exact timing is really crucial in this recipe, but it was still odd.

      2. re: Gio

        It's cool and rainy, just the day for this dish. The recipe calls for chicken "cut into serving pieces." Hmm. Does that mean in breasts and thighs? I would think smaller smaller than that, but I think I've used bigger pieces with this kind of dish in the past? I'll ask the butcher what he thinks. :) YUM!

        1. re: foxy fairy

          Ahem..... I'll confess to using 8 chicken thighs. It worked out very well. We had the leftovers last night.

          When I read that a recipe calls for cutting a whole chicken into serving pieces, I cut the bird into 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 wings.

          1. re: Gio

            If the breasts are large, I often cut them in half as well.

            1. re: MMRuth

              You beat me to my edit! .... after I posted I thought a little more and you're right. Large breasts get cut in half.

            2. re: Gio

              That's how we cut ours when we made this, and it came out beautifully.

              1. re: Gio

                Wow! What speedy responses. Thanks. Now we're off to the butcher and right next door there's a place with several exquisite varieties of feta! mmmm!

          2. Little Meatballs in Tomato Bechamel from Naoussa (keftedes stin armi), Macedonia and Thrace, p. 245

            I served these tasty little meatballs as part of an array of mezethes (link below). They're made with ground beef, red onion, dried mint, oregano, evoo, bread, and soda water. I actually forgot to add the soda water, but they were still good. I combined the meatball mixture the night before, and fried the meatballs the next day. The sauce is made by making a roux with olive oil and flour and adding tomato paste, garlic, water and bay leaves. I ended up simmering the sauce much longer than the 5 minutes she said for it to thicken up.

            We liked these, but having recently had some of the meatballs in Casas' Spanish cookbooks, we preferred those. They were still good though, and made a nice meze.

            Mezethes report:

            1. Tonight we tried rabbit with egg and cheese sauce (pp. 333). It was ok but not spectacular. The one substitution we made was using an aged gouda in place of the kefalotyri, because we were too lazy to drive across town to the greek deli.

              In all honestly I don't think the type of cheese would have made that much difference -- the cheese flavor was completely lost. It was a quite good braised rabbit with onions, but nothing more. Furthermore, her vague instructions once again bit us. You're supposed to add water to the wine to mostly cover the rabbit, but even to my inexperienced eye that was way too much water to turn into a sauce in my 7.5 qt. dutch oven. I ladled a bunch of it out before adding the egg/cheese mixture, but even then it was too much liquid -- I was forced to dilute it with corn starch. Listing amounts would have been much better. Again, it was a good braised rabbit, but not a wow recipe.

              We also made onion fritters (pp 274). This recipe fared somewhat better. We again used the aged gouda, but the cheese flavor was much more pronounced.

              I'm not sure we'd make either one again, but it was a decent meal. I think after the chicken with onions and feta, which is now very high on my list of comfort foods, we were expecting more. I like bold, savory flavors, and these two just didn't deliver the way we expected.

              1. Macedonia and Thrace Chapter
                Pan-Fried Pork with Leeks, Hot Pepper and Wine from Macedonia, Pg. 243

                Well - it *would* had been Pan-Fried Pork but it was Pan-Fried Chicken because when I opened the package the stench reached the other side of the moon! I packed it up in 5 plastic bags and DH zipped it down to the market from whence it came returning with chicken thighs. I had prepared the dry marinade before opening the pork so it was all ready: Kosher salt and FGBpepper, sweet paprika, red pepper flakes, dried mint, orange zest. The meat is tossed in this combination, covered and refrigerated for 1 hour.

                EVOO is heated in a heavy skillet, the meat is browned on all sides then removed and set aside. A sliced leek and chopped red onion are cooked till translucent. The meat is added back in with a cup of red wine. Skillet is covered and simmered till meat is tender. We liked this very much even with the substitution. It was quite tasty and savory.

                P.S.: The pork was a last minute purchase on Saturday 8/9 to be cooked the following night, Sunday. It had a sell-by date of 8/22!! I didn't buy it from our usual purveyor but from a local supermarket, Shaw's. I'll Never do That again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gio

                  I had that problem with some chicken last week - at least here someone came and picked it up and gave us our money back! Same issue with a sell by date at least a week away.

                2. Crete Chapter - Rabhit (chicken) stewed with artichokes, p. 426

                  Let me start by saying I've been having a hard time feeling loads of love for this book. I find the writing awkward, and am having a tough time imagining some of the combinations (like the prune/leek thing). But I wanted to try a few things, and decided I'd do my usual sub of chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) for rabbit in this recipe. Result: we LOVED this. I made some changes though. First of all, somehow my brain hiccuped and I didn't remember that I needed to marinate the meat overnight, so it only got about 5 hours in the wine and lemon juice. You then chop scallions and saute in olive oil, then brown the floured rabbit/chicken. Once browned you cover with water (I used chicken stock instead) and she has it cooking for an hour on low. You then add the artichokes and either dill or wild fennel (I went with dill) and cook for another 25 minutes or so. Huh? Does this strike anyone else as a ludicrous amount of time, even at low? And cooking fresh herbs for that long seems pointless to me. So my total cooking time was closer to an hour total, and the dill wasn't added until the last few minutes. You finish this off with a little lemon juice, flour, and stock stirred into the whole thing. The flavors are so fresh - you taste each thing - the dill, the lemon, the chicken (erm, maybe the rabbit?), and the artichokes and it truly sings in your mouth. I served it over orzo.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Did you use fresh artichokes? I rarely feel like "dealing" with them and so don't use them very often.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Oops, no, forgot to report that part. I used two packages of frozen baby hearts. I find these to be really good subs and Sooooo much less work.

                      This dish got two big compliments from my husband. First, when he came in the house last night, he said "the whole street smells fantastic. I'm so happy that smell is coming from our house." and then as he took the leftovers in this morning he said "I feel like I should be taking in a bottle of wine to go with my lunch."

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Did you defrost them first, LulusMom.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I just stuck them in the fridge the night before, so they were still a tiny bit frozen.

                    2. re: LulusMom

                      This is too funny! We both posted at the same time with our chicken substitutions. I'm trying very hard to like these recipes. Seems like a so much work with so many ingredients still doesn't produce a fabulous dish. Plus I don't think I've ever eaten so much onions in my life. As for the leeks/prunes combo, I honestly think Any dried fruit could be used. The flavor of the leeks isn't all that pronounced and the dried fruit merely adds a certain sweetness to the dish.

                      We still have another half month to go.... I'm moving to the back of the book for more inspiration.

                      1. re: Gio

                        I'm not loving this book either, and there aren't that many recipes that you can make for an after-work dinner. Everything is cooked for such a long time!

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I've noticed that too - though I made a fish dish that I need to report on that was quite quick.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            My thinking exactly. How on earth are the vegetables and herbs going to have any flavor cooked for as long as she calls for in so many recipes? And seriously - cooking rabbit, even on low, for an hour and 25 minutes (after browning)? Seems like overkill.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              That is how they cook things in Greece though - long and slow, so the vegetables are very soft without turning to mush. It can be very flavourful, but it's certainly not for those in a hurry (or people who like their vegetables al dente)! With the rabbit, I imagine the long braising means it should be falling off the bone. I don't think an hour and a half is an unreasonable time for a whole rabbit.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Really? Cut up rabbit? I just think you'd cook the heck out of the thing that way. but very interesting to hear that they actually do want their vegetables mushy in Greece. Explains a lot about the recipes.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  I agree w/ GG in terms of the braising - I think a slow cooking like that makes it more tender. I've not tried a number of the vegetable recipes because they do seem to call for awfully long cooking times.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    I suppose you could describe them as mushy! A kinder description would be "tender". ;-) I happen to like slow-cooked vegetables, especially courgettes. You may have noticed that Greek cooking uses a lot of olive oil and liquid, and so the vegetables kind of soak up the flavours of that.

                                    As for rabbit, I imagine they use the wild ones in Greece, and they can be dry, hence the long braise. You can't really overcook rabbit when done like this (well you probably can, but it's not easy).

                                    Having said that, I find I get tired of Greek food after a week of being there and I'm beginning to remember why!

                            2. re: Gio

                              Gio, somehow Chowhound didn't show me your post until this evening - conspiracy!! The lucky thing for me is that we actually did end up loving the one thing I've made so far, but my list of "to try" recipes is a lot shorter than it has been for the past few months (Spain excepted ... we were out of town most of that month and I just kind of gave up). But somehow the recipes aren't giving my tongue a "read" of what they'll taste like or else I just think - yuck, zucchini or green beans cooked until they've withered. But I do hope to try another one or two before the month is up. You've been incredibly game so far, and I am impressed.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                That's OK LLM..... Who knows why this site acts the way it does. Nevertheless, I am determined to plow through the book hoping to find the quintessential recipe which will define Greek cooking. I have not been totally turned off and have actually liked a few dishes. Soldier on LLM.... next month will bring a new awakening.

                            3. re: LulusMom

                              Sounds great! Glad you found a winner, I'll have to try to it.

                              I agree with your observations on the book. The first two recipes I've tried I left out an ingredient and/or skipped a step. HA - In my job I transcribe neuropsychological evals, and on the checklist for potential cognitive problems is not being able to follow cookbook recipes, so glad to know it's the awkward writing, and not me. Phew! ; )

                              I just mentioned to my husband that I thought this was her first cookbook and would have a lot of the classic recipes. I've found it's a follow-up book, and really a home-cooking cookbook with comfort food, traditional village dishes, and regional specialties, so I think that's why I find a lot of the recipes don't appeal to me and sound bland to my palate. I was hoping to introduce E's family to Greek, but the collection of recipes in this book has made it a little difficult (along with various family members who don't like dried beans, chick peas, grape leaves, lamb, eggplant, etc.) A few of the recipes I've bookmarked include dried mint, and after serving a couple of dishes this weekend, E has decided he doesn't like that seasoning either. I'm going to try one of the pasta dishes this week.

                              1. re: Rubee

                                I know she had a book before this one, which had more of the typical Greek dishes.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Thanks MMRuth - I just looked it up and it's called "The Food and Wine of Greece: More Than 300 Classic and Modern Dishes from the Mainland and Islands".

                                2. re: Rubee

                                  Rubee, I have to say, I was a little nervous this morning mentioning that I wasn't loving this book, but I feel better knowing that some others are finding it a little rough around the edges. I laughed out loud at the fact that your job sounds totally insane and yet these recipes still seem tough to follow.

                                  One thing that has struck me is that it turns out I cook a lot of greek inspired things that are dead simple that have similar, but much more work-intensive sounding, recipes in this book. Think I'll stick with the simple stuff ... at least until Lulu hits school!