Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic - Grilled Caribbean Chicken with Mango Avocado Spinach Salad

Featured Ingredient: Crushed Pineapple

Since the weather seemed to change literally overnight from damp, dreary and chilly to something more summer like, my family and I figured we would break in the picnic table last night and resurrect the grill.  This got me thinking about what I was going to make for Monday's celebration.

As you are perusing recipes for your Memorial Day festivities or even another summer party, I would like to offer this for your consideration. While I only cooked for a small intimate crowd. The below serves at least 8.

This is by far my favorite chicken recipe... ever. It was my favorite recipe long before Uncanny Goodness. Now that a warm spring is upon us, I wanted to share it with you.  It's from the June 2000 issue of Working Mother, when I was 8 months pregnant with a 3 year old in tow.  Searching for an easy to prepare recipe yet flavored for an adult palate, I came across this article. Something about the sweet, citrus and spicy notes infused by the marinade married with the char of an open flame is nothing short of magical. It pairs well with Mango Avocado Spinach salad (recipe follows) and fragrant white basmati rice.

You can use any part of the chicken for this.  Last night we used breasts.  I think the best choice is boneless thighs.  They cook quicker than bone-in chicken parts and are meatier and juicier than breasts, that dry out more easily.  I used to have a grill that used to char everything way before it was cooked.  So I would sear the outside of the chicken and infuse the outdoor grill flavor and finish them in the oven at 375F.  This is another strategy that works. The grill is key however for that smoky punch.

If the flavor profile of the chicken is far too sophistacated for your child's or chldren's taste, create these for them with some hamburger and save more chicken for you!
Hamburger Faces

Grilled Caribbean Chicken - Serves 8

8 pieces bone-in or boneless chicken pieces (drums, thighs, or whole breast halves)

1 can 8oz crushed pineapple (2 are pictured but you only need 1)
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp dijon mustard
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. 

Squeeze juice from pineapple can into a liquid measure and add enough pineapple to equal a 1/2 cup.
In a large resealable bag add the rest of the marinade ingredients.  Add chicken and squeeze out as much air as possible out of the bag.  Marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Remove chicken from marinade and shake off excess.  Throw marinade away!

Preheat grill. Oil rack and place over medium heat. Grill chicken skin side down first to sear.  When grill marks are achieved turn chicken.  Cook depending on size of meat until a meat thermometer registers at 175 for thighs and 165 for boneless breasts.  Remove from heat to a plate and let rest a few minutes under tin foil. Again, if you are working with large pieces of  bone-in chicken like whole chicken legs, you can sear them and finish them in the oven.

Grilled Caribbean Chicken
An even more simply accompaniment is the Mango Avocado Spinach Salad.  Basically that is all the ingredients except for a few splashes of balsamic vinegar dressing.  The bright note of the mango and creaminess of the avocado is a perfect match with the seasoned chicken.

Mango Avocado Spinach Salad - Serves 8

2 large mangos
2 avocados
A few handfuls of baby spinach.
A couple of dashes of balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Peel mangos and slice the cheeks around the pit.  Slice thinly.
Peel avocado.  Remove pit and slice about the same width as mango.
Wash spinach and add as much as you like.
Drizzle and toss salad with prepared balsamic vinaigrette dressing right before serving.

Happy Memorial Day!

Caribbean Chicken, Basmati Rice and Mango Avocado Spinach Salad

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