Grilled chicken. Seeing a trend here? While I love steak with all my heart, our budget and wallet work together to keep my cravings in check and my heart and arteries happier. The only thing about chicken is that it needs creativity. By itself it can be somewhat…..bland.
If I had to name the best grilled chicken dishes I’ve had of late, top of the list would be the Huli Huli Chicken. That one was very hard to beat and may just be my favorite of all time. Martha Stewart’s Grilled Whole Chicken with Barbecue Sauce would be pretty high up there too. The sauce is home made and very, very good. And last, but definitely not least, is the Italian Grilled Chicken that replaced my go-to roast chicken in my husband’s heart. It’s not a big surprise that two of those three come from Cook’s Illustrated’s Summer Grilling issue. So, since the magazine has done so well with whole chickens (and chicken thighs since the Tequila-Glazed Grilled Chicken Thighs get honorable mention), I thought I’d see how it does with a boneless, skinless breast. In my book, that’s the hardest piece from which to pull any real flavor.
Cook’s Illustrated actually devoted a good amount of space to the actual process of grilling the boneless, skinless breast, which showed me that they also realize how hard this piece of meat is to cook properly. The method they used combined the modified 2-level fire (see the Charcoal-Grilled Bone-In Chicken Breasts for the definition of the various fire configurations) with a disposable aluminum pan instead of the grill’s lid. I don’t know why they didn’t use the grill lid, but when in Rome….
To start, I made the marinade; a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and water. I added the chicken and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes, flipping it once. While it was marinating, I started the charcoal and made the sauce; a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, minced parsley, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
When the marinating was done, I put my chicken on the non-coal side of the grill and covered it with the pan. When time was up, I flipped the breasts and covered them again. After a few minutes, they went over the hot coals to cook and brown, getting flipped once again to cook until done. It was that easy.
While the instructions said to slice each breast on bias and serve with the sauce, I had kids to feed and turned these into chicken burgers instead, putting the grilled chicken on a bun, then topping it with the lemon-parsley sauce.
Let’s just say that there were four of us and six burgers and we had no leftovers. Dudette even ate a whole burger, though I did have to add ketchup to hers. The chicken itself was moist and perfectly cooked. The parsley sauce was excellent. A perfect combination of tart, spicy, earthy and sweet. I even added a bit more to my burger after a bite or two.
The boneless, skinless chicken breast will never be my favorite part of the bird, but this method and sauce does bump it up a spot or two on the list.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I don’t understand the need for the aluminum pan and think it’s a nuisance. I would just forego it and lower the lid while the breasts are off the coals. The sauce was fantastic as is and while there are endless ways it can be adapted (using various other herbs, etc.), it works well as is too.
Grilled Lemon-Parsley Chicken Breasts
from Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling 2011
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
Disposable 13×9″ aluminum roasting pan
In a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
In a zip-top bag, combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic and water. Add chicken and turn to coat. Press out as much air as possible, seal and refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, start the charcoal fire and clean the grate.
Remove chicken from the bag and place on the cooler side of the grate, thicker sides facing the coals. Cover with the pan and cook until light grill marks appear, 6-9 minutes. Flip the chicken and turn so the thinner side is facing the coals. Cover with pan and continue to cook another 6-9 minutes or until chicken registers 140 degrees with a meat thermometer.
Move the chicken to the side with the coals and grill, uncovered, until dark grill marks appear; 1-2 minutes. Flip chicken and repeat process.
Remove chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes, tented with foil. Slice breasts on the bias into 1/4-inch slices. Serve drizzled with reserved sauce.