We've had some great weather lately, so we've been doing a lot of grilling. Joe was craving a Rick Bayless recipe, so he chose this one. At it's core, it's just grilled chicken and vegetables, except it becomes special because of the spicy garlic marinade you make for the chicken, and the use of seasonal vegetables which have the most flavor and nutrients.
The marinade reminded me of jerk spices. It had lots of garlic, along with sweet flavors from cloves and Mexican canela, which is a lot like regular cinnamon. You could just use cinnamon, but as we found out, you can get ground canela for like $1 at a well-stocked grocery store, so why not pick some up?
We also made a fresh salsa to go along with it. Joe really liked it, but it was way too spicy for me; I preferred the chicken just by itself. I might have liked the salsa better if I'd seeded the peppers, since I'm kind of a wuss like that.
We chose to use bone-in chicken thighs because humanely-raised, vegetarian-fed chicken was not on sale that week and thighs are one of the cheapest cuts. Boneless chicken breasts or thighs will work too but they will not have as much flavor as bone-in.
For the vegetable, you could use whatever is in season at the time. In the winter, try sliced potatoes (red-skinned or Yukon Gold) or beets. In the fall, use sliced zucchini or other summer squash. In the summer, sliced tomatoes would be excellent. Since it still feels like spring around here, I went with asparagus.
I've read that the best way to store asparagus is upright in a container with a bit of water, as if they were cut flowers. So I searched my kitchen and found what I think is the perfect vessel for a bunch of asparagus, though I am aware that it's probably a travesty to use an Okoberfest mug for anything but beer.
Grilled chicken with Tangy Yucatecan Spices, Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa, and Asparagus
adapted from Rick Bayless - Mexican Everyday
For the Yucatecan Garlic-Spice Marinade
1 head garlic, broken into individual cloves (you want about 12 cloves)
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
4 chicken breast halves or 8 thighs (about 2 pounds total), skin and bones intact
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound asparagus, thick lower stems trimmed and peeled (or cut off)
About 1/2 cup Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa, for serving (recipe follows)
Cut a small slit in the side of each garlic clove, and place them all into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 30 seconds. When cool enough to handle, slip off the papery husks. Put them into a running food processor one at a time, letting each one get fully chopped before adding the next. Stop the food processor, and add the remaining marinade ingredients, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until smooth.
Scrape half the marinade into a medium bowl, and the other half into a small saucepan. To the saucepan, add the broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more, depending on how salty the broth is to begin with). To the bowl, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly with the marinade.
Get your grill ready. If using a gas grill, heat one side to medium. Or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash and about medium-hot, then move the coals to one side.
Lay the chicken pieces skin side down on the grill over the medium-hot fire. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until nice and brown. Flip them over with tongs, moving them to the cooler side of the grill. Cook until completely tender (the juices will run clear when the meat is pierced with a fork), about 10 more minutes, maybe longer if the pieces are very large.
Meanwhile, get the asparagus ready. Put the stalks into a microwave-safe bowl with about a tablespoon of water. Cover with plastic wrap, poking a few holes in the top. Microwave on high for about 4 minutes, or until the stalks are crisp-tender. Drain the water and season with salt.
Return to the broth mixture in the saucepan, and bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Arrange the chicken and asparagus on a platter or individual plates, and drizzle with the sauce. Pass the salsa at the table (see recipe below).
Roasted Fresh Chile Salsa
adapted from Rick Bayless - Mexican Everyday
makes about 1/2 cup
Notes: We used jalepenos, but you can use any small hot chiles. You want about 4 ounces of chiles total.
4 medium jalepenos
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Turn on the broiler and adjust the rack to the highest level. Break the stems off the peppers, cut in half lengthwise (you can seed them at this point if you want your salsa less spicy) and place them cut side down on a small baking sheet. Scatter the garlic cloves around the peppers.
Broil the peppers and garlic cloves until the peppers are soft and getting black in places. This should take a couple of minutes.
Scrape the contents of the baking sheet into a food processor or blender. Add the lime juice, plus 1/4 cup of water. Process until very smooth.
Pour into a small dish and thin with additional water if necessary. You want it to be "easily spoonable". Taste cautiously and season with salt as needed.
This salsa will keep refrigerated for about 5 days.