“Chicken, chicken, chicken,” my husband Jeff teases me. He’s not harassing me about my irrational fear of crossing train tracks, thinking a locomotive will suddenly appear from out of sight and fly by at top speed, crushing me à la the coyote in those old Road Runner cartoons. He’s mocking my answer to the question of what to eat for dinner. So I like chicken. Hey, there’s a reason it’s the second most popular meat in the U.S. after beef (and that probably gets top billing because of all those billions of burgers served)—it’s a tasty and versatile lean meat. According to the USDA, chicken consumption more than doubled between 1970 and 2004, from 27.4 pounds per person to 59.2 pounds. Wow. Well I know I’m doing my part.
But, the issue is how to prepare this well-loved bird in a different way when it’s so frequently part of the menu. Here’s a flavorful favorite by grilling guru Steven Raichlen (host of PBS’s Primal Grill and author of The Barbecue Bible, Beer-Can Chicken, and more) that both Jeff and I loved. It appeared in Drinks magazine in a feature on saucy barbecue so it’s a “spirited” recipe containing tequila. It’s still tasty without the garlic-cilantro butter, but that certainly adds a layer. What’s not to like?
Tequila-Grilled Chicken Breasts
This recipe is bursting with southwestern flavors—lime, cilantro, and jalapeño chilies. So it’s only appropriate that the spirit should be tequila.
1 1⁄2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the marinade:
4 jalapeño chilies, seeded and chopped
4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1⁄2 bunch cilantro, washed and stemmed, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1⁄4 c. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. tequila
For the tequila-garlic-cilantro butter:
3 Tbsp. salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. tequila
Lime wedges for serving
Trim any fat or sinews off the chicken breast. Arrange them in a nonreactive baking dish.
To make the marinade, combine the jalapeños, scallions, 1⁄2 cup cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin in a food processor and finely chop. With the machine running, add the olive oil, lime juice, and tequila. Purée to a bright green paste. Pour this mixture over the chicken, turning the breasts several times to coat evenly. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
To prepare the tequila-garlic-cilantro butter, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic and chopped cilantro and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the tequila and bring to a boil.
Drain the chicken breasts well. Grill over high heat until cooked, 4 to 6 minutes per side, lightly basting with the butter sauce.
Transfer the chicken breasts to a platter or plates. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with lime wedges.