You know what sucks about diets? Your new best friend becomes, wait for it, boneless skinless "grilled" chicken breasts. What a lame best friend. No one wants to eat a best friend like that for your one, tiny, unsatisfying meal per day that's not a protein bar or a bowl of hot water. What is it that makes grilled chicken such a lifeless, empty shell of a protein? I'll tell you. Whatever sauce, marinade or seasoning you put on the outside, typical chicken breasts are usually so dense and fatless, the middle still tastes like nothing. It's like biting into a stack of wet toilet paper. Plus, you are so terrified of leaving it raw in the middle, you scorch it until it is a true misery to eat.
So what do you do? How can boneless, skinless chicken breasts taste good and still remain healthy?
Answer: Beat them into submission with a large, heavy object.....seriously.
A Paillard is a cut of meat that has been pounded out to a very thin consistency and cooked very quickly. It is a french word, and despite the fact that the they invented surrender and body odor, the French can cook. Wrapping the chicken in plastic wrap and beating it senseless gets rid of that dense middle, gives more surface area for marinade to bind with, and makes it easier to cook without worrying about the salmonella toilet parties.
Personally, I have a feeling the chicken we ate tonight had bad dreams for weeks while it was still alive about the beating I was going to give it after it went to that big processing plant in the sky. I used a rolling pin and went outside where I wouldn't wake the baby and threw that thing the mother of all beatings. After that, our paillards went into a simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes. Then, to the grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, and then top with Chimichurri sauce.
Now, I have to credit the Timberwood Grill in Charlottesville, VA for introducing me to this next critical element. Chimichurri sauce is a Brazilian green steak sauce that goes HUGE with grilled meat. It is a blend of oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic, chilis and honey that tastes like solid gold. I tried it there (our server wrote the recipe down on the back of a ticket) and then experimented with various recipes until I settled on my own concoction, which is incredible. Recipe will be at the end of this post. If you ever make anything you see on this blog, make this sauce. It will set you free...
Up to this point, even the most amateur griller would have no problem making the chimichurri or the paillards. Very easy, yet delicious. This next one tested me a little. But, it was wicked worth it. The best grilling cookbook I have found so far is The Barbecue Bible by Stephen Raichlen (the guy from Primal Grill on PBS/APT). His recipe for Fire-Charred Tomato soup was the basis for our soup tonight, and I only slightly deviated from his instructions (because I totally burned the Ancho Chilis until the broth they were in tasted like licking a crematory drain). For copyright’s sake, I won’t include the soup recipe, but if you are interested, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll tell you where to find it and how I changed it.
With Pregatron’s help (she chopped vegetables, buttered and toasted French bread pieces and babysat the simmering soup pan), we got through the steps, and it was by far, the most awesome tomato soup I’ve ever had.
So that’s it! There is parsley and oregano in both the chimichurri sauce and the soup, so the whole meal tasted cohesive and it was one of my most restaurant-worthy meals to date. This was one for the record books!
Chimichurri Sauce (Green)
1 cup flat leaf parsley (or italian parsley. just don't use "curly" parsley, which is the stuff they garnish your plate with at Shoneys)
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
3 cloves garlic
1 jalepeno or related pepper
salt and pepper to taste.
Separate stems from parsley and oregano, and place in food processor. Add garlic cloves, jalepeno, oil, vinegar and honey, and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper as needed.