By Diane Rossen Worthington
I love grilled chicken breasts, but they can turn out dry and somewhat flavorless. I have a couple of different techniques I like to use to avoid these pitfalls.
Make sure to grill the chicken on medium-high heat quickly so it doesn’t have time to dry out.
Cook the breasts with the skin on for a juicier result.
Marinate the chicken for up to two hours before cooking to add flavor without changing the texture of the chicken. The only caveat to this is, while marinating, if you are using a sticky-sweet barbecue sauce, just season the breasts and rub them with oil before cooking. Wait until five minutes before the chicken is done to brush on the sweet sauce so it doesn’t remain over the flame long enough to burn.
Finally, make sure that the breasts are of uniform thickness for even cooking by pounding them between sheets of waxed paper.
This recipe works perfectly with lean chicken breasts, and the sauce is a Seriously Simple classic that I serve often. It is a variation on the internationally popular chimichurri sauce that appears on grilled meats in Argentina. It is as common there as ketchup is here. I added sweet white balsamic vinegar to the mixture, but you could also use sherry or champagne vinegar if you like.
The basics of chimichurri sauce are parsley, lots of garlic, vinegar and olive oil. You can make your own signature variety with the addition of compatible ingredients. Some ideas include adding capers, shredded carrots, celery, red bell pepper and even anchovies. Some ingredients remain uncooked while others meld together when left simmering for a few minutes.
Grilled chicken breasts with herbed green sauce
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and dark ends removed
1 small bunch Italian parsley, stems removed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill leaves
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic, sherry or other white vinegar
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes, or to taste
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Herbed Green Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 whole medium chicken breasts, halved, boned and flattened
The sauce can be made up to five days ahead, covered and refrigerated. Just make sure to remove it from the refrigerator a half hour before serving.
1. In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, mince the garlic. Add the parsley, basil, dill and oregano, and process until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, water, lemon zest and seasonings, and process. Taste for seasoning. It should be very flavorful and spicy. Adjust if necessary, and set aside.
2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Place the chicken breasts in a zip-lock bag and pour in the marinade. Make sure the marinade is evenly distributed. Zip the bag and refrigerate for 1/2 to 4 hours.
3. Prepare the barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill about 3 inches from the flame for 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until no pink color is showing.
4. Place on a platter and serve with the sauce on the side.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.