Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bahamian Grilled Chicken

When I want to shake off the winter funk, I like to cook what I consider to be beachy or summery foods.

Foods with bright flavors and vivid colors.  Flavors of citrus (particularly lemon and lime), fresh basil and thyme, colorful chiles, ripe tomato, corn, fresh herbs in general, summer squash, and sweet onions remind me of summer.  

Winter blahs - - - BE GONE!

This week I was feeling a bit of the winter blahs so I made Bahamian Grilled Chicken from Steven Raichlen's classic, The Barbecue Bible.  

The chicken filled the prescription for the winter blues.  It was moist with a subtle acidic twang, had a decent amount of heat without being too spicy, and was bright in color and flavor.  Since I knew the habanero would make this spicy, I made up a cooling sauce to go with it.   

Bahamian Grilled Chicken
source:  The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen  (only slightly adapted)

  • 4 ea chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless*
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup vidalia or other sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced on a thin bias
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 2 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped*
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper, ground
  • More green onion for garnish if desired

For the cooling sauce
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1/8 tsp allspice, ground
  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry.  Place it in a non-reactive bowl and pour the lime juice over it.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.*
  2. Mix the cooling sauce ingredients together and refrigerate.
  3. Pour off and discard the lime juice from the chicken.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and coat the chicken with it.  Marinate this for 2 hours  (Make sure you work the paste into all the "nooks and crannies".  You don't want to bite into a bland cranny, do you?)
  4. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for direct heat to 400f (high side of medium).  Once heated, clean and lightly oil your grill grates.
  5. Remove and discard any large pieces of onion clinging to the chicken, it will just burn.  
  6. Grill the chicken 6-8 minutes per side with the grill lid closed.  For nice cross hatch marks, rotate your chicken a quarter turn half way through each side's cooking time.*
  7. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160f, remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
  • The original recipe called for skin on, bone in.  I only used boneless, skinless because it was what I had on hand.  Bone in would be better, the cooking time will be more like 8-12 minutes per side.
  • I used one habanero and the heat was spicy for sure, but not insultingly hot.  You could use something less capsaicin laden like serrano or a mild cherry pepper.
  • I was tempted just to mix the lime juice and other ingredients together all in one marinade and I'm sure that would be good too.  But I think doing the two separate does give a nicer end result, the "wet rub" seemed to adhere better and you keep the color.
  • Another quick "chicken beauty" trick - I like to brush my grilled chicken in the last few minutes with a light gloss coat of oil/lime juice (50/50 mix).  This reinforces the hints of acidity and gives it a shine.
Tip:  I also made the Caribbean classic side dish, peas and rice.  They use "pigeon peas" which I couldn't find in the past, so I've always used black eyed peas.  Raichlen points out that "pigeon peas" are also known as crowder peas.   Those are easy to find, I had cans in my pantry already!

Don't be worried when your chicken is freakishly orange at first, it's just paprika.

Just after I glossed lightly with oil/lime juice.

The house smelled so good when we brought the chicken in from the grill!

Sliced and served with peas and rice.....crowder peas!  
Note about The Barbecue Bible

I bought this book a few years ago and reference it frequently.   It has a wide variety of excellent tasting, easy to follow recipes.  But better than just a recipe collection, The Barbecue Bible is also loaded full of grilling skills, tips, and techniques.  My favorite and most often used features are the time/temp charts for various types and cuts of meat and veggies.  The Barbecue Bible is a must have for any newbie griller or any well seasoned pit monkey like myself.  It is easily one of my top 3 of ALL my cooking related books (not just bbq/grilling books).

For rib lovers, here is a head's up.  In May 2012, Workman will publish a revised edition of Raichlen on Ribs: The new title will be The Best Ribs Ever. The new book will feature three regional American rib menus with sizzling new recipes

Winter Blahs
So how do you deal with winter blahs?  Do you embrace them and make a lot of stews, casseroles and comfort dishes?  Do you "cook your way back into summer" with summer dishes?  Or do you just hide under a heavy blanket until spring arrives?  

Standard Disclaimer:  I received no compensation for this post.  I paid full price for Barbecue Bible although Workman Publishing Company did give me a review copy of Planet Barbecue in 2010.