Mediterranean herbs, halloumi and heirloom tomatoes make this baked, juicy chicken the perfect (gluten-free) dinner!
This baked Greek chicken with halloumi and tomatoes is one of the easiest and tastiest dinners you’ll ever try! It has some classic Mediterranean herbs like savory and thyme for a warm and peppery flavor, a bit of fresh lemon juice for freshness, and some tomatoes and a yellow (or red) bell pepper for sweetness. The halloumi cheese, which doesn’t melt easily, gives an extra level of texture and great aroma that marries very well with the rest of the ingredients highlighting, even more, the Mediterranean character of this recipe. In a few words, I’d say it’s a must-try!
This chicken has almost the same taste like the one my mom used to make when we were working in our vineyards (or olive groves, depending the season). You see, when there was work to be done, we knew that we would be out in the fields from dusk till dawn, so my mother prepared a big bowl of pork chops and chicken pieces and brought them with us in order to cook them over the fire. Those pieces were mixed with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, thyme and oregano, and got to marinate in that mixture for a few hours until noon. I distinctively remember the smell of the chicken while roasting over the fire, the sizzling sound of the juices dripping on the charcoals and the taste of the hot, juicy, tender chicken (the pork chops were good too, but I preferred the chicken).
To get as close to that taste as possible, I first sauté the chicken with some olive oil in a very hot skillet or saucepan, until nicely browned and caramelized. This step ensures maximum flavor, almost as good as the one you get with barbeque. I then add the rest of the ingredients and bake in the oven until done. That’s it! You can serve this chicken with fluffy rice, mashed or baked potatoes, and a green salad. And if you have any leftovers it’s a great chance to make this Mediterranean chicken sandwich with balsamic and olive oil sauce. And throw in some of that baked halloumi, it’ll be delicious!
Haloumi is a traditional cheese from Cyprus usually made from sheep and goat milk, though sometimes some cow’s milk can also be added. Most often it is flavored with shreds of mint leaves (without the mint flavor becoming too obvious) and its main characteristic is that it’s very “sturdy” and doesn’t melt easily. That’s why it is not eaten raw but always cooked, since that way all of its flavor gets released. It’s perfect for grilling or frying. The best and quickest way to eat it, is to heat a nonstick pan (or grilling pan) very well, lightly oil some slices of halloumi and cook them until each side is browned. Mix it in salads or other dishes and eat immediately.
- Haloumi can be hard to find in some places or rather expensive. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any other cheese with the same qualities and taste. However, you can try to replace it with paneer, Queso Para Frier (haven’t tried those), feta or provolone. If you use feta or provolone add them at the last 10 minutes of baking.
- Substitute oregano for savory and/or thyme (it has similar flavor profile).
- Salt the chicken pieces and let them rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. This allows the salt to penetrate the meat, and also makes the chicken cook more evenly.
- Pat dry the chicken pieces very well with some kitchen towels to minimize sizzling while sautéing.
- You can skip the sautéing step and just bake the chicken in the oven (add 15 more minutes to the baking time). BUT, sautéing makes the chicken more flavorful, tender and juicy.
- Bake in a hot oven. This results in juicy meat and crispy skin.
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon savory
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes cut in half (or regular tomatoes roughly chopped)
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cubed
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 8.8 oz (250 grams) halloumi, cubed
Optionally: rub the chicken pieces with some lemon juice and rinse well with tap water. Pat dry chicken very well, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C)
Heat a large skillet or saucepan over high heat, add the olive oil and chicken in one layer (if chicken pieces don’t fit in one layer you’ll have to do this in batches) and brown well from each side (about 7-10 minutes total).
Add the lemon juice, savory, and thyme and stir for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, bell pepper, and halloumi. Remove skillet from the stove and shake gently to distribute the ingredients evenly (transfer everything to a baking pan if your saucepan isn’t oven-safe). Bake for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is well browned.