I grew up in my dad’s restaurant, and cooking (and the associated eating) is the one activity on which my whole family can agree. We might go toe-to-toe on, say, the inherent value of tattoos, but get us in the kitchen, and we are the very definition of collaboration. Toss the name of a potential ingredient in our midst, and the creativity flows: “You know how that would be good [insert variation the chef/cookbook author never thought of but wishes he did]…”
I love the science of following recipes (much to my dad’s chagrin), and Cook’s Illustrated magazine has, hands-down, the best recipe for just about anything you might want to make… where “best” does not take into consideration the health of the eaters nor the potential time constraints of the cook. The Cook’s Illustrated mission is simply to provide the tastiest version of everything, from chocolate chip cookies to lasagna. (I’ve made both!)
Thanks to CrossFit and Spartan Challenges and Mission 17 and my desire to do pullups and to look as awesome as possible, I don’t indulge in my Cook’s Illustrated stash very often anymore. But when we got our gas grill, Dave gave me the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook The Best Recipe: Grilling & Barbecue as a gift… which comes in very handy when cooking for people who don’t want to eat “diet” food, a.k.a., the members of our band St. Joe’s Choir.
We had a band dinner last week, and I made Turkish Chopped Salad, sauteed snow peas, and grilled steak, turkey sausage, and chicken — fully expecting I’d be the only one eating the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Wrong! The chicken was everyone’s favorite.
Now I’m going to share the secrets with you… enjoy!
The Best Chicken you Will Ever Eat
This makes enough brine, spice blend, and dipping sauce for about 2-3 pounds of bonless, skinless chicken breasts. You can find this recipe and more in my cookbook Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat.
Secret #1: Brining
You will think it’s not necessary. You will think it sounds too fussy. But I guarantee you won’t regret it if you do it. If you’re short on time, you can just salt & pepper the chicken, but the magic just might be in the waiting for the brining step.
8 cups water
3 tablespoons salt
2 garlic cloves, whole
1/2 tablespoon coconut aminos or homemade substitute
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1. Put water in a large ziplock bag and add the salt, garlic, coconut aminos, bay leaf, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and peppercorns. Let the salt dissolve.
2. Add the chicken breasts to the bag. This will look gross; ignore it.
3. Put the bag in the fridge and forget about it for 2 hours.
4. Remove the bag from the fridge; ignore that it looks even grosser.
5. Rinse the chicken well. Think about something else as you do this so as not to notice that you’re holding raw chicken.
6. Place in a sieve to drain/dry while you move on to Secret #2.
Secret #2: Spice Blend
There are commercial blends out there, and there are certainly other things you can mix together, but this one is a crowd-pleaser. Promise! This makes enough for about 2-2.5 lbs. of chicken — tastes good on pork, too. (Also makes a nice sprinkle for sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and acorn squash, if you eat such things.)
Spice Blend Ingredients:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Spice Blend Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well with a fork. Preheat a gas grill on high heat, with the lid closed, about 10 minutes.
2. Coat the chicken pieces with the mixture; massage and pat it on lovingly. You want the pieces pretty densely coated.
3. Place the chicken smooth side down on the preheated grill, close the lid, and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the chicken, cook for an additional 3-4 minutes with the lid closed, until the chicken is browned and cooked through.
Note: If you roll the meat in the mixture, you need to throw away any remaining spice blend. Don’t re-use it on vegetables or think you can save it for later. It’s once and done when raw chicken is involved.
Secret #3: Moroccan Dipping Sauce
Kinda like salad dressing, this would also be delish drizzled on raw cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, and onions. It was killer on all of our meats, but really made the chicken sing… and I’ve been using it to spice up whatever I pack for lunch: green beans, cabbage, broccoli. It’s a great way to get a little extra dose of healthy oils.
Moroccan Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot, or smoked)
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced cilantro or parsley
salt & pepper to taste
Moroccan Dipping Sauce Directions:
1. Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt & pepper together in a small bowl. Inhale and rejoice that you have a nose.
2. Gradually whisk in the oil, then stir in the fresh chopped herbs.
3. Serve at room temperature.
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