My sister called me the other morning. We were both in our cars — bluetooth-ing and dropping off our various charges — and figuring out a possible cousin sleepover when she said, with some urgency, “Oh! Did you get my message?”
“No, what message?”
“I left you a voicemail with a lot of questions, but I really want to tell you about the chicken.”
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“My friend Trish had a bunch of moms over for lunch recently, and she served the most delicious chicken.”
Now this was unusual. I get a lot of post-game calls about recipes, but not many of them are about poultry. “Tell me about it,” I told her, negotiating a huge snow bank so I could park the car in front of my coffee shop.
“Well, it was served on a large platter, kind of like one that you would have, and it was room-temperature, but she served it with tiny potatoes and green beans on top of lettuce, a ton of fresh vegetables, and a vinaigrette on the side.” Deconstructed lunch! I thought to myself.
“Someone said, ‘Oh it’s a deconstructed lunch!’ She also had some salmon, but the chicken was the star. It was so healthy and flavorful, not bland like most chicken in salad is, and it was all ready to go when we got there because she made it ahead of time.”
Maybe it was just that the night before I had a ginormous bowl of pappardelle with pork ragu, and the night before that, a hearty Moroccan beef stew — or maybe it was just that we were steeling ourselves for another snowstorm that would come with more buttery, stewy richness, but when she was describing this to me I was longing for a sign of spring, even if it was in dinner-form. And man, did something light surrounded by fresh vegetables sound like the ideal antidote to this relentless winter.
“She marinated some breasts overnight in mayo, a little olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and a little agave. Some fresh herbs I think. Then she grilled it.”
“On a real charcoal grill outside or in a grill pan on the stove?”
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Wow! Who was this Trish woman? We’re not winter grillers, especially these days, but I still had to make it. The next day was a school day, which is another way of saying a snow day, and it was clear that no work was going to get done no matter how many Sam & Cat episodes I bribed the girls with. But, that chicken would get done so help me! Before I was even out of my pajamas, there were four pounded breasts steeping in a some version of Trish’s marinade. And, later that night, I broke out my cast iron stovetop grill. No charcoal, no charcoal chimney, no char anywhere to be found. And, I obviously served it hot instead of chilled or at room temperature like Trish did. And, I went with the winter vegetables I had in my fridge. But the whole process managed to thaw a few dreams of spring nonetheless.
And the chicken! I understand why it merited a next-day call from my sister. (The true mark of a successful dish in my book.) Tender, flavorful, and the leftovers were even better the next day.
2 tbsp mayo
1/4 cup olive oil
Squeeze of agave (or honey)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
Squeeze of lemon
Fresh rosemary, thyme, or torn basil leaves
4 medium-size chicken breasts, pounded thin
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients and, along with chicken, add to a ziploc. Marinade eight hours or overnight, flipping in the fridge at some point if you can. When you are ready to cook, heat a stovetop grill to medium-high, and brush with a tiny bit of olive oil. Grill chicken pieces about four minutes a side (let excess marinade drip off before you place on grill) or until chicken is firm but not rock hard. Serve with Kale-Brussel hash below.
Add a small piece of smoky bacon to a skillet set over medium heat. Once fat has rendered, add a little olive oil and cook a few tablespoons of onions or shallots (chopped) until soft. Add salt and pepper, maybe a few red pepper flakes if you're so inclined, then a few healthy handfuls of shredded kale and shaved brussels sprouts. Cook until just barely wilted (and still bright green) and add to a serving bowl. Drizzle with a little cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar) to taste. You can chop the bacon into small pieces if you feel like it, or just eat the chunk yourself before the kids fight over it.
Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: A Love Story and the blog of the same name. She and her husband write The Providers column for Bon Appetit.