Santa Fe Authors Hope to Put an End to Dry Grilled Chicken
Cheryl and Bill Jamison's Chicken on the Grill (hardcover, $24.95, William Morrow)
By Gwyneth Doland
“Grilled chicken must be the most frequently botched food in America.” So begins this new book from Santa Fe-based cookbook authors who brought us the popular backyard smoker book Smoke and Spice. For this volume, the authors devoted their full attention to a particularly worthy topic—they're right about grilled chicken; it's almost always overcooked and devoid of flavor. In Chicken on the Grill's first chapter, the Jamisons offer simple, uncomplicated methods for avoiding the most common pitfalls, advising grillers to keep the grill's lid open while cooking and maintain a moderate heat using a hand test. Other chapters focus on skewers; boneless, skinless breasts; chicken salads and pastas, whole chickens and sandwiches. The recipes range from Asian to Southwestern to East Indian and will leave you with absolutely no excuse for serving plain-old dry chicken breasts.
Chicken-Pancetta Tidbits on Rosemary Sprigs
Pancetta, the unsmoked Italian bacon, brings rustic heartiness to these delectable mouthfuls.
Makes about 3 dozen
3 dozen (3 inch-long) rosemary sprigs
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 to 3 ounces pancetta or slab bacon (rind removed), cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes
1) Soak the rosemary sprigs in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes. Toss the chicken with the oil and salt to taste.
2) Fire up the grill, bringing the heat to medium.
3) While the grill heats, thread a single chicken chunk onto each rosemary sprig, pushing it up just far enough so you can fit a piece of pancetta next to it. (It may be helpful to use a bamboo or small metal skewer to make a hole through the centers of the chicken and pancetta cubes first.) You should have a nice tuft of spiny rosemary leaves spilling out at the top of each skewer.
4) Arrange the tidbits on the grill with their tufts of rosemary leaves away from the fire. (It's fine to have a few fire-tinged leaves, but you want most of the leaves to end up intact.) Grill uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes total, turning the tidbits frequently to cook on all sides, until the chicken is firm and white and the pancetta is brown and just crisp. Serve hot off the grill, with the rosemary sprigs as handles.
Chicken Souvlaki Sandwich
In this island-inspired chicken sandwich, piping hot chicken and a cool Greek salad mingle with herbal accents of oregano and dill.
Serves 4 to 6
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/2 inch thick
Pita breads, 4 whole for 4 servings, 3 halved for 6 servings
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Minced zest and juice of 3 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 large green or red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small to medium red-ripe tomato, finely diced
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
2 to 3 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar
1) About 20 minutes before grilling, prepare the marinade: Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a zippered plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and toss back and forth to coat the chicken evenly. Set aside at room temperature.
2) Fire up the grill, bringing the heat to medium.
3) Mix together the relish ingredients in a medium bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste and just a splash or two of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Set aside at room temperature.
4) Drain the chicken and discard the marinade, leaving the spices and bits of lemon zest that cling to the breasts.
5) Grill the chicken uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes total. Turn onto each side twice, rotating the breasts each time to get crisscross grill marks. The chicken is ready when it is white throughout but still juicy. Meanwhile, warm the pita breads on the edge of the grill. Split each whole pita open.
6) Slice the chicken into thin strips, then pile into the pita pockets. Spoon the relish inside (or over), sprinkle with feta and serve right away.
Tequila-Lime Chicken Tacos with Charred Limes
The corn flavor of fresh tortillas, a healthy dose of lime, a dash of tequila and a bit of chile—chicken doesn't find better mates. For these soft tacos, we pound the breasts fairly thin so that there are still plenty of crispy edges after we pull the grilled chicken into shreds. Even without the zippy marinade, the general notion works well with any leftover grilled chicken. The creamy lime sauce is a luxurious switch from salsa or hot sauce but for variety's sake, either could replace it on occasion.
Serves 4 or more
Minced zest and juice of 2 medium to large lime
1/4 cup tequila
1 tablespoon Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ground dried green chile or green chile seasoning or 1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeño
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/4 inch thick
3 to 4 medium limes, sliced into 4 wedges each
Few tablespoons of tequila
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried ground green chile or green chile seasoning or minced pickled jalapeño, to taste
12 corn tortillas, plus a few extras in case of tears
1) At least 1 hour ahead or up to the night before you plan to grill, prepare the marinade: Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a zippered plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and toss back and forth to coat the chicken evenly. Refrigerate.
2) Up to 1 hour ahead, place the lime sections on a plate, sprinkle them with the tequila and rub lightly with oil. Let sit at room temperature.
3) Prepare the sauce: Stir together the ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4) When ready to grill, drain the chicken and discard the marinade. Let sit uncovered at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
5) Fire up the grill, bringing the heat to medium.
6) Grill the chicken uncovered for 6 to 8 minutes total. Turn onto each side twice, rotating the breasts each time to get crisscross grill marks. The chicken is done when it is white throughout but still juicy. Grill the limes alongside the chicken, turning them from time to time so that they soften and develop a bit of char. Remove them as they are ready. Warm the tortillas on the edge of the grill, then wrap in a dish towel or foil to keep warm.
7) Working quickly, pull the chicken into thin shreds and pile it on a platter. Surround with the limes and set the bowl of sauce on the platter or alongside. Place the wrapped tortillas in a basket. Serve immediately, encouraging diners to fill and fold the tortillas, drizzle with sauce, squeeze on some of the warm tequila-spiked lime juice and enjoy.