By Helen Klein
I’m the kind of person who will tiptoe through snow — as long as it’s not too deep — to grill dinner.
It’s no surprise then, that, now that the snow is long gone, I’m itching to barbecue.
For this meal, my inaugural 2011 cookout, I’m marinating chicken breasts, always a favorite, in a mix of citrus juices, spiked with vodka, and flavored with a bouquet of alliums — garlic, scallions and shallots — plus celery, a couple of my favorite spices, cumin and cayenne, and a bay leaf for good measure.
The combination of citric acid and alcohol is a heady one; both enable flavorings to penetrate deep into the meat, making for a more succulent finished dish.
And, cumin and citrus juice — here a blend of orange, lemon and lime juices, all freshly squeezed — is a natural pairing, found in the cuisines of regions as distant as Latin America and Asia. The dish is finished with fresh chopped cilantro, another nod to those areas’ culinary traditions.
Citrus Grilled Chicken
3/4 lb. chicken breast cutlets, 1/2-inch thick
Juice of one large orange
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup vodka
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 bay leaf, crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients except chicken in a mixing bowl and blend thoroughly. Add chicken and turn till all meat has been covered with the marinade. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least two to four hours.
Preheat grill. Cook chicken over medium-high flame, turning every three to four minutes, for eight to 10 minutes, basting occasionally with marinade.
Remove from grill when meat is seared (but not burned) on the outside, and cooked through.