Grilled Salsa Chicken & Fire-roasted Corn

grilled-chic-salsaJust in time for a gorgeous, sunny Spring weekend: quick & easy grilled marinated chicken and roasted corn – the flavors of summer (without the 98% humidity!).

Given how simple this meal is, it’s unbelievable how flavorful it is.  The corn is a revelation; pure summer, captured at it’s peak last August and roasted over smoky coals until the flavor makes you want to write an opera (Ode To Corn?  A-Maizing Maize? Corn Cob Blues?  OK, I’ll stop now). Seriously, though – it is that good. And the chicken is no slouch; it’s tender and juicy, suffused with the flavor of peach and habanero pepper.  Cooking outside over an open flame always seems to add delight to any meal (as Tai, the Grill Master Supreme at our house, can attest); in this case, it just adds to the satisfaction of a delicious, healthy and satisfying meal.  Happy Spring!

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Grilled Salsa Chicken & Fire-roasted Corn

EQUIPMENT

  • charcoal or gas grill
  • tin foil

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 lb chicken parts (I used boneless, skinless breasts, but any chicken parts will work)
  • 1 pint salsa (I used homemade peach salsa, put up last summer; any flavorful salsa will do)
  • about 3 cups corn kernels, cut off the cob (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • pinch each of salt & black pepper

METHODS

  1. Trim chicken pieces of excess fat; separate tenderloin from breast, and if breasts are large, slice in half, lengthwise and in half again, width-wise, such that all the chicken is approximately the same size, and/or pound between two sheets of plastic wrap, to 1/2-inch thickness.  Place in medium bowl and cover with salsa; mix well to coat all pieces.  Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerated from >1 to 24 hours.
  2. Light charcoal or pre-heat a gas grill.  If using charcoal, pile the coals to one side of the grill to create hot and warm sides of the grill.
  3. Make a tinfoil packet for the corn.  If you are using lightweight or recylced foil, make a heat-protecting pad for under the corn by folding a sheet of foil into quarters and placing it in the middle of a large piece of flat foil (see photo below).  If using heavy-duty or regular foil, one or two thickenesses of foil is enough. Lightly oil or butter the center of the foil (where corn will rest).  
  4. If corn is frozen, transfer to a colander and rinse under hot water.  Allow to drain.  Pile corn onto the center of the foil, top with the tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper, then fold the edges of the foil in, carefully to avoid ripping a hole in the packet, and twist the top to seal.2009-04-161
  5. Once the coals are warm, but not yet ready for the chicken (not yet red hot), place the corn packet on the grill, over the ‘warm’ side with fewer coals.  Close the grill cover.  If possible, allow corn to cook for 20-30 minutes prior to adding chicken to the grill.
  6. Add chicken to the grill, directly over the hottest part of the coals. Reserve any remaining salsa.  The chicken pieces should cook quickly at this size, approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  Check for doneness by removing one piece and slicing a small slit; any sign of pink flesh means that the chicken is not yet done. Once all chicken pieces are cooked through, cover with foil or an inverted bowl to keep warm.
  7. Corn can be eaten any time that it is warmed through and tender; it is best when some kernels have blackened, and some browned, adding to the smoky, complex roasted flavor.  Carefully open the packet to check on corn’s progress while the chicken is cooking (be careful of escaping steam!), then close the packet back up again to finish roasting.
  8. If enough salsa remains from the marinade, reduce over high heat, in a small saucepan, on the stovetop until the salsa is darkened, thickened, and more importantly, any bacterial contamination from the raw chicken has been destroyed with heat. 
  9. Serve chicken over a bed of roasted corn (add fresh baby salad greens as a nice touch) and topped with the reduced salsa, or with fresh salsa if you prefer. 

OPTIONS

  • A spicy red salsa would work nicely with black bean dip, tortilla chips and lime wedges.  A cool green salsa verde chicken would be excellent with sliced, salted crunchy radishes or a creme fraiche or yogurt topping.
  • A cooked salsa works best here, as the flavors have had to combine in storage, and the vinegar acts as a tenderizer for the chicken.
  • This recipe works equally well with pork cutlets, however, they are generally a bit tougher than chicken breast, so benefit from a longer marinating time.

STORE

 Cooked chicken and vegetables will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

SEASON

 Grilling season!  Fresh corn is in season in summer, but this works quite nicely with frozen corn.

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