On the grill

My Favorite “Salad Chicken”

by Shawnda on August 24, 2014

in Chicken & Poultry,Citrus,Lighter & Healthier,On the grill,Quick & Easy,Salads

My Favorite Salad Chicken: Mojo Brined Grilled Chicken Breast

Since I started training for the half marathons on my calendar later this year, I’ve been (mostly) trying(ish) to keep my nutrition in check. That just means aiming for a better balance of calories, eating 6-10 servings of veggies and fruit a day, and eating more chicken breast at lunch than I have in my entire life.

My Favorite Salad Chicken: Mojo Brined Grilled Chicken Breast

Aside from losing 10lbs in 8 weeks (because let’s be honest – that’s the most important part to me), that’s… actually it. I have nothing more to add to that statement. Like I said – for me, it’s the most important part of running :)

For lunch, I’ve developed a love for chopped salads (picking from the myriad of veggies I now have to keep on hand to make 6-10 servings a day) topped with grilled chicken. But not just plain ol’ grilled chicken – because that *&^% got old on day 3. Instead, I top my salads with Mojo-Brined Chicken.

My Favorite Salad Chicken: Mojo Brined Grilled Chicken Breast

Now, don’t let the word “brine” scare you. You probably just flashed on an old episode of Good Eats that involved a special bucket or a cooler, loads of ice, and a turkey the size of your 4 year-old.

NOPE.

To brine this chicken, we’re talking about a pie plate, a gallon freezer bag, a cup of water, and a tablespoon of salt. THAT’S IT. It’s a quick and small recipe that yields an insanely not-boring, juicy chicken breast flavored with citrus and garlic inspired by Cuban mojo sauce.

My Favorite Salad Chicken: Mojo Brined Grilled Chicken Breast

I pick up one of those gigantic, 5-6lb value trays of chicken breast that always seem to be on sale, throw the brine together on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and then grill them all at once on Sunday afternoon (when we’re sure to already have the grilled fired up) to have for lunches all week.

It’s by far the best part of every salad I make.

Mojo-Brined Chicken

Grilled, juicy chicken breasts marinated in a mojo-inspired brine of oranges, garlic, and oregano.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 small valencia oranges (juice from both oranges, the zest from 1)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. Lightly pound the chicken breast to an even thickness.
  2. Place in a gallon zip-top bag with the remaining ingredients: orange juice, orange lest, lime juice, garlic, oregano, water, and salt.
  3. Seal the bag after pressing out the extra air and squeeze it a few times to mix the brine.
  4. Place in a pie plate (or other walled-dish to prevent a fridge disaster should your bag spring a leak) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I typically do it overnight).
  5. Heat your grill to medium-high, remove chicken from marinade, and grill ~6 minutes on each side.
  6. Let stand for ~10 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Yields: ~6 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 4 hours 30 minutes

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Grilled Zucchini and Herbed Ricotta Sandwiches

I planted a second round of tomatoes in the garden last week. And while I was at it, I went ahead and stuck a new zucchini plant in.

Because this is the first year I haven’t wanted to wretch at the mere sound of “zucchini” before the 4th of July. I seriously cannot get enough of it. And I haven’t even made zucchini bread, the sure sign that Zucchini Fatigue has set in, once.

(Muffins are a different story. For next week.)

But this dish. Pure zucchini amazingness. I took my favorite summer side dish (that has already gotten the sandwich treatment plenty this summer) and gave it the Annie’s Eats sandwich treatment: served on some crusty ciabatta with a beautifully simple and creamy herbed ricotta.

I made my own ricotta. You don’t have to. But I highly recommend it. Because it takes like 20 minutes, a candy thermometer, and some $3 cheesecloth.

And your 4 year old will look at you with complete wide-eyed amazement because she just helped you make cheese. “Real cheese but it’s cheese that we eat with a spoon.” (And eat with a spoon she will until you take it away.)

Grilled Zucchini and Herbed Ricotta Sandwiches

Creamy herbed ricotta and grilled vegetables served on crusty, grilled ciabatta bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini, sliced into 1/3-inch rounds
  • 1 red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for spraying/brushing
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup ricotta
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, minced
  • 1 lb loaf of ciabatta

Instructions

  1. Heat grill to medium.
  2. Carefully thread the onion rounds onto skewers (this will keep them in tact as rounds while grilling), making sure the skewer goes through every onion ring.
  3. Brush onions and zucchini rounds with 1/4 cup olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill vegetables 9-10 minutes each side, until nicely caramelized.
  5. Cut the ciabatta loaf in half horizontally and lightly spray/brush with olive oil - transfer to the grill for 1-2 minutes until crisped.
  6. Stir the ricotta with the lemon juice and zest, garlic, and basil leaves in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Spread ricotta over the bottom half and top with zucchini and red onion slices.
  8. Spread any remaining ricotta on the top half of the bread, place on top, and then cut into serving sizes (smaller for appetizer; larger for entree).

Notes

Yields: Servings vary

Adapted from Annie's Eats

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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Margarita-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Everyone has someone in their family that is the go-to person for cooking a specific dish. In my family, I am not that person for ribs.

But I have not given up.

Margarita-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

At a cookout in 2011, with a Fine Cooking magazine in one hand and a margarita in the other (possibly my problem), I slapped my very first rack of ribs on the grill while a hungry group of people salivated.

30 minutes later, I was in the kitchen trying to pick off scorched foil from scorched meat – or maybe it was bone… it was all black, hard, and crusty and there was very little distinguishing the two. And Jason was outside trying to prevent the garage from catching fire.

It wasn’t a total loss. Just maybe half the ribs. And 7/8 of my pride.

Margarita-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

This year, with my trusty ol’ Fine Cooking magazine in one hand (I still had it and just dropped it into the recycling bin today) and a margarita in the other (clearly not the problem!), I slapped my I-have-lost-count rack of ribs on the grill while (fewer) hungry people salivated. And then 2 hours later, I texted my little brother: My streak of not burning the ribs and my house down is at 3 years!

These are, hands down, my very favorite ribs that my little brother doesn’t make. And only partly because the recipe uses 4 shots of tequila.

Baby back ribs are marinated overnight in a tequila-citrus-chile powder marinade that’s reduced with – wait for it – more tequila and citrus. The grilled, fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs are finished with the “margarita glaze” before they are inhaled by your family and everyone is left staring at you wondering why you didn’t make more.

Margarita Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Tender baby back ribs are marinated and glazed with tequila and citrus.

Ingredients

  • For the marinade:
  • 2 racks (~4 lbs) pork baby back ribs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Juice of two limes, zest from 1
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • For the glaze:
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • Fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Cut each rack of ribs in half and place 2 sections each in a gallon zipper bag.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients and pour half into each bag.
  3. Seal the bags, turn to coat, and place in a baking dish in the fridge.
  4. Let marinate overnight, turning a couple of times.
  5. Transfer the marinade to a pot and add the glaze ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Reduce glaze to a thick sauce.
  7. Heat grill to 250-300 degrees.
  8. Wrap each rib section in a foil pouch and cook (indirect heat recommended but my grill isn't big enough to accommodate two racks over indirect heat).
  9. Cook for ~90 minutes and tear into one of the pouches to see if the meat is tender and is pulling from the bone.
  10. Carefully open the foil pouches and glaze the ribs, leaving the foil peeled back so the sauce will caramelize.
  11. Cook for 5 minutes and then glaze again.
  12. Repeat and then transfer to a foil-tented platter to rest for 10 minutes.
  13. Cut ribs and serve any remaining glaze on the side as a sauce.

Notes

Yields: "12" servings (don't count on it)

Barely adapted from Fine Cooking

Estimated time: 14 hours 30 minutes

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Queso-Smothered Chicken Fajita Burgers

Who needs tortillas?

I mean, I do. Gosh, any world without tortillas is one I do NOT want to live in.

But you don’t need tortillas. At least, not for this “burger,” anyway. And it’s actually how this burger came about. Fajita Night with tortillas that ended up being moldy easily turns into Fancy Burger Night.

Cheesy, messy, fork-and-knife Fancy Burger Night.

Queso-Smothered Chicken Fajita Burgers

And while we’re confessing super, insanely deep things: Can you believe I almost didn’t serve these on a bun? The defeat of finding that those fresh-made tortillas weren’t so fresh after all, I nearly made the fajitas into a salad.

Guys. A salad.

Cooler heads prevailed (thank you, Jason!) and we ended up with Queso-Smothered Chicken Fajita “Burgers” instead. And it was a good thing, too. Because 1) Those tortillas had inflected a pain that only a messy burger could fix. And 2) EAT ALL THE CARBS AND CHEESE AND MORE CARBS.

Queso-Smothered Chicken Fajita Burgers

Because guess who has 2 half-marathons on the calendar, a dried queso drip down the front of her shirt, and a belief that, after 2 cherry margaritas, mustache selfies will never get old?

[giggle]

THAT GIRL.

Queso-Smothered Chicken Fajita Burgers

Juicy chicken fajitas smothered in queso and served burger-style.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lime wedges
  • 4 burger buns
  • Chile con Queso

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high.
  2. Brush the chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill the chicken 6-7 minutes each side, until juices run clear.
  5. Grill the vegetables on a vegetable pan next to the chicken (or a double-folded sheet of foil with a few holes poked in it), stirring occasionally, until nicely charred.
  6. Let the chicken set at least 5 minutes before slicing.
  7. Top each burger bun with sliced chicken, a generous mount of vegetables, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and a scoop of melty queso.
  8. Serve with a fork, knife, and my favorite skinny margarita.

Notes

Yields: 4 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 45 minutes

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