It shames me to say it but I’ve only just finally realized the full potential of my charcoal grill. Senor and I grill pretty regularly in the warmer months. Everything from whole chickens to steaks to corn on the cob. Usually we’re pretty good at multitasking. We’ll make a beer-can chicken and surround the grill with corn on the cob so everything for our meal cooks in one place. Smart, right? Sort of. Not as smart as say, grilling a week’s worth of something all at once and then storing it for super fast lunches, dinners and snacks.
I was reading a magazine and there was a letter from a reader that said her big time-saver for weekday meals was to grill whole family packs of whatever they were having for dinner. So simple, yet so genius. Instead of grilling one chicken, do three. Instead of four chicken breasts, do 16. Instead of two pieces of fish, do the whole bag of frozen filets. And since it doesn’t take any longer for eight chicken breasts to cook than it does for two, you’re not really doing any extra work. Huh. Chicken is the most popular meat in America and it’s shocking how truly terrible chicken can taste. Dry, flavorless, sawdust. The good news is, making really tasty chicken isn’t actually that difficult.
So on Monday we marinated eight boneless chicken breasts and two bone-in breasts. The bone-in were for dinner that night, the other eight for lunch salads, sandwiches and possibly pasta dishes later in the week. An additional upside is that the boneless chicken breasts we bought at Whole Foods offer a bulk discount if you buy at least three pounds of meat. That’s helpful.
The key to grilling chicken is to know how to do it right. Marinate the meat. Pound boneless breasts flat so they cook quickly and evenly and each bite has yummy marinade/charcoal flavors. Use intense heat to sear the outside and keep them juicy. The quicker you cook the chicken, the more moisture it will retain.
We paired the bone-in breasts with some teeny tiny little Yukon gold potatoes, roasted with salt and olive oil in the toaster oven and some sliced up heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt. Delish.
8 boneless chicken breasts
2 bone-in chicken breasts (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mrs. Dash’s garlic blend
coarse ground black pepper
crushed red pepper
Start by pounding your boneless chicken breasts with a meat tenderizer. Use the flat side and pound them so they’re an even thickness. You don’t want them to be too thin, just even throughout.
Make a marinade. This is really easy to do and you can use any combination of flavors you’d like. For a traditional flavor, put some garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and Mrs. Dash’s Garlic Blend into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. You don’t have to measure, just dump some of each into the bag. Once you have it mixed up you may want to add more of something. Squeeze a lemon or lime into the bag with the seasoning. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken. Fill the bag with water until the chicken is just covered. Stick in the fridge and wait until you’re ready to grill to take it back out. You want it to marinate for at least two hours.
Get your charcoal ready. We used natural log/chunk charcoal and a chimney starter. This gives really intense heat which is perfect for charring and searing meats. The larger pieces stay hot for much longer than regular charcoal. Make sure to use enough charcoal to cover the entire grilling surface with heat.
Once the charcoal is ready, remove the chicken from the bags and place directly onto the grill. You want to cook them quickly and over high heat. If you’re grilling bone-in breasts, place those in the center and hottest part of the grill. They’ll need to cook longer than the boneless breasts. Leave the lid open, flipping them once they have nice brown grill lines. The boneless breasts will only need to cook for about four minutes on each side. Make a small cut in the middle of one to check that the meat isn’t pink. Remove the breasts from the grill and place in a covered pan.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready for summer. Like NOW. Last week was glorious here. As glorious as weather in Minnesota in March can be. Temperatures in the 50s. The 50s! The snow was literally gone in all but the shadiest places. The snow mountains in the parking lots were actually so short you could see over them! Amazing right? Well it snowed 6 inches on Tuesday and it hasn’t been above freezing since, so back into the winter boots we go. 😦
But last week, when it was warm and sunny and I was full of positive spring energy I decided to go spring-feverish and welcome spring with open arms. Our dinner had this:
and I got to use this for the first time!
Isn’t it beautiful? Let’s see it again.
Even my grill pan is summery!
And in action:
It seems like everything we eat in summer is so fresh and light and…tangy, you know? Well, except for steak which is not light but is delicious. I knew I wanted to use a lot of fresh flavors and I knew that the numero uno requirement of this dinner was going to be pineapple. I love pineapple. It’s by far my favorite fruit. I’ve been buying whole pineapples and thanks to the genius pineapple peeler/corer that I bought from Pampered Chef, cleaning pineapples is now one of the easiest things ever. Seriously, check this thing out. I use it on apples too.
Grill pan+chicken+pineapple=grilled chicken and grilled pineapple. It’s really just simple addition. Toss in some cilantro-lime rice and top it off with a balsamic reduction glaze and you have a party. Yes, literally, a party. On a plate. Or in your tummy.
Grilled pineapple and balsamic chicken over cilantro-lime rice Serves 2
1/2 cup dry basmati rice
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 pineapple, cored and cut into slices
14oz chicken breast tenders (one package)
1/2 cup cooked and drained black beans
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Nonstick spray (I used olive oil but you may use Pam as well)
Rinse and drain your rice well. The best way to avoid rice that sticks and clumps is to rinse it before cooking really well. This removes the extra starch. We buy our rice in a 15lb bag from India and it lasts us for years, so it’s a good practice to rinse it. You never know what penetrates the burlap sack. Cook your rice until tender, and allow to cool.
While the rice is cooking, spray a grill pan (or a regular skillet) with olive oil. Add chicken tenders and cook over a medium flame. Turn halfway through so both sides get grill marks.
Using a small sauce pan on a back burner, measure out a cup of balsamic vinegar. Feel free to use more, the balsamic glaze is delicious and in my opinion, the more the better! Bring the vinegar to a boil and let simmer until it’s reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let stand for at least five minutes. The glaze will thicken a bit upon standing.
Once you have all three burners going, whip out your pineapple, lime and cilantro. Clean the pineapple into slices are either rings or half of a ring, about a half-inch thick. Slice the lime in half and juice it. Tear the cilantro leaves off the stems until you have as much cilantro as you can handle. Personally, I could handle a having an equal rice-to-cilantro ratio but Senor isn’t quite as insane about cilantro as I am. I may have issues.
Get your black beans ready by either cracking open a can and rinsing them, or if your like me, breaking a chunk of frozen, cooked beans out of the freezer. Pop them in the microwave for a minute until they’re toasty warm. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and set on a small plate. Keep both the chicken and the beans in the microwave until you’re ready to use them. If you need to reheat, just give them a quick 15 seconds.
Sprinkle your rice with a pinch of kosher salt, then add your lime juice and fresh cilantro. Stir and set aside until ready to serve.
Finally, add your sliced pineapple to the grill pan. You can crank the heat up if you’d like and cook on each side until dark grill marks appear and your pineapple is warmed through.
Serve each plate with the rice, topped with the beans, topped with the chicken. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over all three, concentrating on the chicken. Top the chicken with the freshly grilled pineapple.
Eat and enjoy! And try to picture warm beaches, late night sunsets, and gentle summer breezes as you eat.
Disclaimer: after I took this picture, I added about five more pineapple slices to my plate. They’re SO GOOD.