Hi everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic Labor Day weekend - I know I did! We went out for a fantastic birthday dinner and I had a divine cake made by a fellow Charleston small business owner, Cakes by Kait. Kait made our wedding cake and cupcakes almost three years ago and for my last birthday of my twenties, I knew I wanted something special. On top of the fun birthday festivities, we had gorgeous weather here in Charleston, just in time for Hurricane Irma* to potentially hit us.
In the spirit of celebrating the last weekend of summer *sob* and an impending tropical storm, I wanted to make something decidedly summer-y. You can thank Mr. Ryan Pekar for this dish, by the way. After having a back-to-school cold for two weeks I have been feeling under the weather and subsequently, unmotivated. Of course, it happens to the best of us, and now my taste buds are finally coming back! He and I were taking an evening walk through our neighborhood and he suggested making a bright and fresh recipe that would make you all think of summer all year long. So I came up with this citrus marinated chicken and I really hope y’all love it.
*Hurricane Harvey has devastated so much of Houston, and we are anxiously awaiting what happens with Irma here in SC. Please consider donating to local Houston charities such as food banks and animal shelters. We hope to fare better here in Charleston, and our hearts are with our Southern neighbors in Texas.
Flavor components: lemon and lime juice and zest bring that tang and brightness that is always needed when you make chicken, especially when you grill. I also included my fave ingredient, pineapple white balsamic vinegar, which I first told y’all about in my tostadas recipe here. I really think I could drink that by the spoonful. For a little smoky spiciness that also enhances the citrus flavors, I added a little cumin. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon catch on that cumin may be my favorite spice. If you haven’t tasted cumin before, it almost tastes like lemon zest that has been smoked but also has a slightly floral note to it. A pinch of red pepper flakes brought a dash of heat, garlic is a marinade staple for it's punch of flavor, and I emulsified it with a robust olive oil.
You may notice that the photos in this post look different than usual. For my birthday, my sweet husband bought me some lighting equipment to help my photography skills for my dear readers. Our kitchen doesn't always get the best lighting, so hopefully these will help, once I get the hang of them! Ryan was also the photog for this recipe, so I could use both hands and get dinner on the table faster. Enjoy his edgy angles!
For the marinade: zest two lemons and two limes.
Add the juice of both lemons and limes.
Add 3 tbsp of pineapple vinegar (see my note on how to make this in my tostadas recipe if you can’t find this vinegar).
Sprinkle in 1 tsp of cumin.
Add a pinch each of red pepper flakes and black pepper, and two pinches of salt.
Add 1 tsp of minced garlic.
Gradually whisk in 1 cup of olive oil.
Place all of the pieces of chicken into the marinade.
I used a large pack of thin sliced chicken breasts when I made this because I was feeding four people and also wanted leftovers for lunches. Because they were already cut thin and it was getting close to dinner time, I only marinated these for 1 hour and that was plenty of time to impart the perfect juicy tangy flavor.
After 1 hour**, grill over medium-high heat on a grill pan (like I did, because we’re out of propane) or on an outdoor grill for 5 minutes per side. If you’re making a large batch like I did, cook the chicken in batches, keeping the cooked pieces warm in a 275 degree oven until all pieces are finished.
**If you marinate for longer than 2 hours, the enzymes in the citrus will begin to tenderize the meat too much, which will result in mushy chicken.
This chicken was juicy and tender, tangy from the citrus, had a slight smoky sweetness from the cumin and vinegar, and just the right kick from the red pepper flakes. I am going to make this chicken well into the fall and winter - I would say “with the help of my grill pan” but it doesn’t get cold here, so once we replace that propane tank, I’ll get back to grilling these for real. Enjoy, friends!
Here’s the recipe!
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.