Monday, June 29, 2009

Make the South Proud Chicken and Grits

Wow. That's all I can say about this one. Imagine the lush texture of roasted peaches and sweetly caramelized red onions sitting alongside a perfectly roasted chicken breast that has bathed in a red pepper and garlic olive oil bath - skin crisped and crackled with a tender, moist center - all piled on top of a soft and cushy mound of goat cheese grits.

I hear you - maybe a little sweet for your taste? I worried about that too - but a teaspoon of red pepper flakes might change your perspective. Salty sweet may have met its new match - sweet and hot. Plus peppery cilantro rounds it all out at the end with its signature clean bite.

I have to admit I altered this recipe (Ring of Fire Chicken) from the food network cookbook, Get Grilling - a darn good little book for the novice griller. I made mine indoors but I don't think Johnny Cash would have minded.

One final note - I have been making grits for years the same way - starting with some sauteed chopped shallots and adding stock - but have FINALLY learned the trick to perfect grits. You have to salt the stock before you add the grits. If you wait until the end - you'll never be able to catch up. And nothing is more disappointing than under-salted grits. It's like buying a new dress only to realize there's a hole in the crotch once you've already cut off the tags.

Ring of Fire Chicken (Garlic and Red Pepper Chicken with Roasted Peaches and Red Onions over Goat Cheese Grits)
Serves 4.

4 fat cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

2 chicken bone in and skin on chicken breasts (about 2 pounds of chicken - you could also use thighs or a whole cut up chicken)

1/2 cup vermouth or dry white wine
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock

2 ripe peaches, rinsed, halved and pitted
1 small to medium red onion, cut into 8 slivers

3/4 cup instant grits
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
fresh cracked pepper

4 oz goat cheese
1 teaspoon butter

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Set your oven to convection setting on 375 (mine is a Gaggenau and only sets at 10 degree intervals so I put mine on 380...) If you don't have a convection setting, set it to 400.

Get out your largest rimmed glass baking dish - sizeable enough to hold all of the chicken, peaches, and onion. Spray with non stick spray and set aside.

Peel and smash your garlic cloves on your cutting board. Sprinkle over the teaspoon of your kosher salt, then smash and smear with the side of your knife blade to create a crude paste (it's okay if you still have bits of garlic chunks - it doesn't need to be perfectly smooth.) Scrape off this goop into a bowl, then whisk in the balsamic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. When all is well combined, pour half of this mixture into another small bowl and have two pastry or basting brushes at the ready - one per bowl.

Place your chicken breasts in a large rimmed glass baking dish, skin side up. Brush them with the first batch of garlic and red pepper olive oil, making sure you clomp as much of the garlic shards and red pepper flakes onto the pale skin as possible. You want to anoint every bit of the exposed chicken including the sides with the oil, but DO NOT just pour it over - depending on the size of the breast you might not need all of it and you don't want extra oil weighing down your lovely juices later.

Add the 1/2 cup vermouth or white wine and 1/2 cup stock to the bottom of the dish, then carefully transfer to your heated oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add your 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large lidded pot. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted, then add the shallots. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, then saute for 4-5 minutes until softened and opaque. Add the 3 cups stock and bring to a boil over high heat with the lid. When boiling, gently stir in the last teaspoon of kosher salt, then the grits, whisking or stirring rapidly to encourage them to absorb the stock. Lower the heat to low, stir another minute, then replace the lid and let simmer, about 5 minutes. The lid may bounce around if the heat gets too high again - don't panic, just slide the pot onto a cool burner and stir making sure the bottom of the grits haven't stuck or burnt onto the pan, and return the lid. If they haven't thickened yet and are still liquidy, slide them back onto the burner, even turning it off if necessary. Instant grit are hard to mess up with a little babysitting. When they are still stirable but no longer soupy (and look like grits versus granules of shaved corn swimming in stock), add the butter and goat cheese, stirring to meld. It helps to put them back on the burner they heated on to let the residual heat speed this along.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the oven and add the peach halves and red onion slivers, spreading about evenly through the pan. Using your second bowl of garlic and red pepper oil, brush the tops of the peaches and onions with the mixture, being sure to touch each bit. You can give the tops just the tiniest dusting of kosher or sea salt as well to help them along, though it's not mandatory. Carefully cover the chicken breasts (whose skin should already be a little brown) with a sheet of aluminum foil while letting the rest of the pan retain access to air.

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 15 minutes. At this point, remove the foil from the chicken and turn on your broiler to 450 to finalize the crisping of the chicken skin. Depending on your oven, this may take anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes, so keep an eye on it. At this point, your grits should be ready and on standby, happily sitting still warm on the stove.

When the chicken skin is crisped to your liking, remove the pan once again from the oven and carefully transfer the chicken to a resting plate. Gently stir the peaches and onions, then return them to the broiler for another 5 minutes, until the tops of the peaches are a deep dark brown and the onions have begun to carmelize and shrink to a lovely pinky purple. Again - keep a watchful eye - the broiler can quickly become your worst nightmare if you don't babysit it.

I like to serve this dish family style - it's LOVELY this way. So I heap the grits into a wide serving bowl, then top with the chicken breasts. Carefully transfer the peaches and red onions piling them around the chicken, then spoon over some of the juices from the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and admire the beauty of it all before you hack into the chicken, separating them in half to make 4 servings.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

FEED ME! It sounds soooooo tasty!