In Turkey, I find that there is no such thing as a “quick meal” for the most part, unless I am ordering for delivery. Sure, there’s brinner (breakfast for dinner) and there is a small selection of cereals. But the idea of making a quick sandwich doesn’t really exist for me. The lunch meat selections are limited, and therefore, I never have any in the house. Sliced bread is the same deal. It can be found, but it doesn’t come close to my favorite white bread – Maier’s Italian. We usually buy fresh loaves of bread every day, not sliced. My husband often then proceeds to rip large portions from the loaf, making it impossible to cut anything that resembles a slice.
So I am pretty much settled with the fact that I must cook each and every day. But sometimes, I just don’t feel like it. Luckily, I have found a frozen (and probably) processed meat that I love and have been creating lots of easy meals with it.
In the States, (you may have noticed that I have taken to calling it the “States” instead of “America.” That is for the benefit of my “North American” friend from Canada.) we are very familiar with the Greek Gyro – a sandwich made on pita bread with what we hope is thinly sliced lamb. Although, I am told by a Greek friend who owns a restaurant in Philly that it is usually pork. Turkey proudly boasts a similar meat called “Döner.” Practically identical to the Gyro meat, it is heaps of meat piled on a vertical spit and grilled. The meat is thinly shaved from the outer sides as it cooks. It can be served on pita, in a wrap, or on a plate with yummy toppings. While it is normally made of lamb, it can also be found made of chicken or beef.
In the markets, one can easily find frozen Döner, made of chicken or beef. We buy the chicken version and always have it on hand in the freezer. For those of you trying to save a few pennies, go to Bim. It’s less than 4TL for 300 grams and is perfect for the following recipes.
Below are a few recipes I have created using Chicken Döner. These are simple meals and truly delicious. What I really love is that they are one pan meals. I can prepare and cook all of these meals in 20 minutes or less. You may want to give yourself another 10 at first. (Yes, I am feeling a little cocky today!)
A few tips:
- When sautéing, use a large stainless steel or cast iron frying pan. It takes forever for food to brown using teflon. (Ick, teflon!)
- Check your refrigerator for leftovers. With a little imagination, you can throw almost anything into the pan with Döner.
- Don’t worry about defrosting the meat. It can be cooked frozen. Simply place the frozen meat in the pan. As one side starts to cook, flip it over and peel apart the pieces that separate easily. Keep repeating this process.
- If things start to dry out and before the pan starts to burn, add more oil as needed.
- For those of you playing along back in the States and can’t find the Chicken Döner in your markets, boneless skinless chicken breast will do. Slice it very thinly. Brown it in the oil quickly. Remove from the pan. Follow the rest of the recipe and add the chicken back in the pan towards the end.
Italian Chicken Döner Saute
Chop a large onion and saute in olive oil. Add diced peppers (green, red, whatever.) Push the veggies to the side and add the chicken. Once the chicken starts to brown, mix the veggies in. Add oregano, dried red pepper (paprika), and black pepper, and red crushed pepper if you like it spicy. When it’s almost finished, top it with chopped fresh tomatoes and fresh garlic. (Powdered garlic will do if you don’t have fresh.) Let the tomatoes cook down a little. Serve it with rice, potatoes, pasta, salad, etc.
Variations: If you have leftover potatoes or pasta, toss them in the pan with the tomatoes. Fresh herbs are great if you have them. Try adding basil, oregano, thyme!
Chinese Chicken Döner
Dice a large onion. Saute in sesame seed oil or peanut oil. Add diced peppers (green or red). When they start to brown, add thinly slice carrots. Push the veggies to the side and add the chicken to the other half of the pan. When the chicken is almost done browning, mix the veggies together with the meat. Add fresh or powdered garlic. Add frozen or canned peas. Break an egg on top and scramble it all together. Top it off with soy sauce, sesame seeds and sliced scallion (green onions). Serve with rice.
Variations: If you have previously cooked leftover rice, add that in with the soy sauce at the end. If you have leftover steamed broccoli or cauliflower, add that too!
Philly Style Chicken Cheesesteak Hoagie
Slice a large onion and saute in olive oil. Add diced peppers (green or red). Add sliced mushrooms. Once browned, push veggies to the side and add the chicken. When the chicken is almost finished browning, mix it all together. Add oregano, black pepper, garlic, paprika. Top with your favorite cheese. If using mushrooms, I suggest swiss. But Kaşar, or Eski Kaşar, will work nicely. As does Edam and Gouda which are also rather easily found in Turkey. (Other choices? American, Mozzarella, Cheddar – anything that melts.)
While it’s cooking, prepare finely sliced lettuce and slices of tomatoes. To assemble the sandwich, slice a long roll (or loaf of bread) lengthwise. I don’t put anything on the bread, but mayonnaise goes nicely with the chicken. Add the lettuce and tomatoes. (This is what makes it a Hoagie! Please do not message me about your favorite yet far inferior “Sub” sandwich! It’s a Hoagie!) Top with the Chicken & veggie mix.
Variation: Add hot peppers like jalapeno. If they are already pickled, add them before the cheese. If uncooked, add them when sautéing the other peppers.
OK. So I can hear what many of you are thinking. “All that chopping and sautéing! How can she call that a quick meal?!” My answer – I am the Queen of Chop and Queen of Sauté! Get yourself a proper Chef’s knife and learn to use it. Keep them sharp! A dull knife is a dangerous tool. It makes life easier! And how hard is it to throw things in a pan?
Looking for a Turkish recipe? I bet you were! I consider these recipes Turkish since I created them here in Ankara! I have never actually seen a Turk prepare Döner at home. But if I were going to try it, I would attempt making İskender, one of my favorite Turkish meals named after Alexander the Great, or so the legend goes. I think it would be fine prepared with Chicken Döner, but it would likely lose its flavor with chicken breast. You may try it with very thin slices of leftover lamb roast, or thinly sliced roast beef.
Terry’s Turkish İskender
Brown the Döner (usually made with lamb, but I would try the others) in olive oil. In another small pot, heat tomato sauce without any additional spices, save salt and pepper. In another small dish, melt some butter in the microwave. To assemble meal: Slice a piece of Turkish Pide into bite sized pieces and lay on a plate. (In the US, you need a round of flat bread that is no more than 1″ thick. Pita will work but it is thinner than Turkish Pide). Top the Pide with the meat. Cover in red sauce. Drizzle melted butter on top. Serve with a big heap of plain yogurt. Yes, I know this does not sound good. It is, however, sublime. Believe me. In addition, if you can get your husband to make homemade yogurt like mine does, it will be even better!
One more tip . . . As my friend Brenda’s mother would say, “You can’t cook from the other room.” Think about it.