You don’t have to wait for the Wisconsin State Fair to enjoy food on a stick. Try this grilled chicken souvlaki recipe. – Green Bay Press Gazette

Posted: May 24, 2021 at 8:06 pm

If you can't wait for the Wisconsin State Fair to enjoy food on a stick this summer, try this recipe from Croix Valley Foods. Green Bay Press-Gazette

HUDSON - In Greece, souvlaki is shorthand for any piece of meat grilled on a skewer. In Wisconsin, food on a stick is shorthand for it's State Fair season.

This recipe from Croix Valley Foods isn't a traditional Greek recipe, nor is it reserved strictly for Wisconsin State Fair-goers, but it's classic summer fare.

Damon Holter, Croix Valley Foods president, said he developed this grilled chicken souvlaki during a food fusion phase to populatethe company's website with recipes.

"It's easy to make and flavorful," Holter said."Its a good little dish."

Before setting out to make the recipe he advised me to get the fresh herbs.

Dip this grilled chicken souvlaki in the homemade tzatziki to boost the light flavors.(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Yield:About 1 dozen skewers

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch strips

12 woodskewers

Marinade:

cup Croix Valley Garlic N Herb Sauce & Marinade

Juice from1 lemon

cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon dried thyme

Tzatziki sauce:

2 Cups Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

2 tablespoons Croix Valley Garlic BBQ Booster

Serve with:

1 red onion, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

In medium bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients. Pour intozippered storage bag.

Add chicken to marinade, seal andrefrigerate for 2 hours or up to 1 day.

In mixing bowl, whisk together tzatziki sauce ingredients. For a smoother texture and to lessen the work of finely dicing the cucumber, combine in a food processor.

Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

Soak woodskewers in water for 20 minutes before grilling.

Heat grill to 375 F. Set up grill for direct heat.

Remove chicken from the marinade and thread the strips onto skewers.

Place chicken skewers on grill over direct heat. Turnoften, until chicken begins to brown and reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 F.

Serve with tzatziki sauce, sliced tomatoes and onion.

(Recipe from Croix Valley Foods)

TASTING NOTES: Hints of lemon and garlic are the most recognizable flavors backed by a blend of other seasonings. Light. Bright. Summer fare. A perfect pairing withlemon shandy beer, crisp white or rose wine, or lemonade.

It gets better when dipped in the tzatziki. Just enough of the thin sauce clings to the chicken, adding cucumber and more herb tasting notes without drowning the souvlaki-like flavors.

EQUIPMENT: Sharp knife, cutting board, two measuring cups, measuring spoon, two mixing bowls, whisk, wooden skewers, grill, tongs, instant read thermometer and plastic wrap or zippered storage bag.

PRACTICALITY:Valley Croix products are sold across the state and can be ordered online. The rest of the ingredients are readily available at grocery stores. No need for specialized equipment or skills makes this easy enough for novice cooks.

Bonus points to Croix Valley for pointing out that a food processor "lessens" the work of making the tzatziki.

Thisisn't a dish suited for a worknight meal unless you plan ahead. Prep everything the night before or morning of, allow the skewers to soak while the grill heats up and you're left with a few minutes prepping the chicken and about 10-ish minutes of grilling. I could see this being a good option for campers (not me) or cabin-ers (me) who want a quick first-night meal after unpacking and setting up. Same if you're having guests over for a backyard barbecue.

This Croix Valley Foods recipe for grilled chicken souvlaki turns out classic light summer grilled fare.(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

HACKS AND INSIGHTS: The four chicken breasts weighed a little over 2 pounds. I just cut each into thirds rather than measuring 1-inch strips. Using chicken tenderloins instead of slicing chicken into strips would be the ultimate Lazy Dan move.

When possible I substitute dried herbs and minced garlic from a jar. I chopped fresh garlic and herbs as recommended and think it boosted those flavors.

Holter said this recipe would work with other cuts of meat.

While eating foods on sticks is a very Wisconsin State Fair thing to do, there's no need to use skewers. Thoughit wouldn't be souvlaki, just Greek-fusion grilled chicken strips.

Don't fear the char. Charred bits on chicken pop with extra flavor.

The blackened marinade easily scrubs off the grill grate with a wire brush if you clean scrape while it's hot.

I was skeptical about the tzatziki because of its watery-thin texture and cucumber-yogurt flavor. However, when paired with the chicken the yogurt flavor disappeared and it boosted the experience.

Next time, I would dice the tomatoes and red onion with a sprinkle of the Garlic BBQ Booster, feta and drizzle of olive oil as a side salad. And maybe some pita. There will be a next time.

ABOUT CROIX VALLEY FOODS: The Garlic N Herb Sauce & Marinade is one of three original sauces Croix Valley made when it launched in 2009. Holter said it is a variation of the steak sauce he developed at his family's restaurant in the 1990s. By the time he left the restaurant, the sauce was being served with more than beefy cuts including duck and chicken.

Looking for work with hours better suited for raising kids, Holter thought the steak sauce might be the answer, though he figured it would be easier to get into stores if he had more than just one sauce. While the steak sauce was being served with all cuts of meat, he said it was designed for beefy flavors, so he created Garlic N' Herb for lighter meats like chicken. He added a hot sauce, too.

With those two sauces and a hot saucein hand, he pitched the trio to meat markets, specialty food shops, and hardware stores and retailers selling grills and grilling equipment.

Today Croix Valley makes 30 products in a 12,000-square-foot facility destined for more than 1,200 stores across the United States, plus stores in Canada and soon in a handful of European countries. Holter said growth has come organically and he developed the sauces and seasonings to meet customer, supplier and retailer requests.

Two products spikedsales and garnered national attention that helped speed the Hudson-based company's growth. The Honey Dijon Barbecue 'n Brat Sauceis a twist on the Southern-style mustard-based BBQ sauce. (Yeah, Wisconsin's love of brats runs strong all the way to the borders.)Sweet 'n Smokey Competition Barbecue Sauce is a bit thinner than most BBQ sauces, Holter said, but works well as a glaze or for dipping with a wide range of meats, from ribs to shrimp. Damon and his wife, Lu, developed the sauce while traveling across the nation competing in contests.

Holter said they've competed in about 20 contests so far this year and wouldn't be surprised if they did 50 by the end of the year.

The garlic seasoning used in this recipe is part of theBarbecue Booster line that are blended to be used before, during or after cooking. It's like salt and pepper, just with more flavor. The Garlic Barbecue Booster has about 20 ingredients. Its one of the top sellers, Holter said, because it's an all-purpose seasoning that works equally well rubbed on cuts of meat and sprinkled on cooked vegetables.

ABOUT THIS SERIES:I test recipes in my very average kitchen with my moderately above average cooking talent and meh presentation skills. I'll provide some insights and basic cooking tips. If you don't find these stories useful, hopefully you find them entertaining. Please send your questions, feedback and recipes you'd like reviewed. I'm always happy to consider a favorite family recipe or Wisconsin food producer for the No Budget Cooking Series.

Contact Daniel Higginsdphiggin@gannett.com. Follow @HigginsEats onTwitter and Instagramand like onFacebook.

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You don't have to wait for the Wisconsin State Fair to enjoy food on a stick. Try this grilled chicken souvlaki recipe. - Green Bay Press Gazette

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