Flexibility is a necessity when you have to cook for a large group. Flexibility is essential if you want to buy main ingredients in bulk and be able to use them periodically without repetition. One of the “must haves” around here is chicken breast. It is easy to portion out and a veritable blank canvas when it comes to meal options – it works on the grill, with pasta, in salads (or as a salad), you can stir fry it or pan fry it, you can stuff it and ….. you get my point.
Well, today was a chicken breast day. Almost any day can be one because we buy them in 3 lb bags, frozen, boneless and on sale. That means we might have to wait a few months between purchases, but when the price drops we can get them for around five dollars per bag. So when the price is right, we invest heavily, usually to the tune of 2 or three bags. – Yes we have a large freezer –
A quick note of caution, if the price seems too good to be true, check the label, certain brands treat the cuts with a salt solution. This is for a variety of reasons, but it makes comparison shopping a little more difficult. That solution will be lost during cooking, so you may be getting less for your money when the food hits the plate. I usually try to avoid any meats that contain more than a 10% solution.
So what did we eat today? During our weekly menu planning meeting my soul mate and I agreed on chicken sandwiches. That sounds easy. But there are still many roads one can take, honey mustard, bbq, teriyaki, buffalo, ect., ect. Our road turned out to be a winding dirt path (in a good way, the kind of dirt path that leads to waterfalls and unicorns). Looking through the cupboards I realized that I was out of the “Southwest Essence” seasoning that I was planning on using, so I had to improvise.
On a recent trip to the local liquor store that was closing to accommodate the new supermarket liquor store, I got a great deal on a large, premixed bottle of Mojito, a Latin-inspired drink made with rum, lime and mint. This became the inspiration for my chicken sandwich.
I started with a marinade for the chicken:
2/3 cup Mojito
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from ½ of a lime
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your desired heat)
Mix all of this in a zip top bag and let the chicken swim (about 5 or 6 breasts). I tend to do short marinades because I can’t think very far ahead, but the longer the better.
While that is stewing, prepare your buns. Now our local grocer had a sale on ciabatta buns and I always try to pick them up when I can save a few cents. Today I got six for three bucks. I like using ciabatta because it looks different and toasts well with a little oil or butter. Whenever I have room on the grill I try to toast the bread – bread is always better toasted, or at least warmed.
For this sandwich I wanted to add a little extra flavor to the buns so I made a mixture of:
3 cloves of garlic (pressed)
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
I sliced the buns open and painted the inside with the mixture.
Some time ago I lit the grill. The grill is now hot and clean and ready for the chicken. Turn the grill down to medium-low add the chicken and close the lid. Let those go for about 5 minutes while we prepare a few dressings and garnishes. And don’t forget about the Mojito, fill a glass with ice and have one.
Here’s where you can get creative. I recruited Shaina to prepare some guacamole consisting of:
2 avocados mashed
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from ½ lime
1 tsp cumin
To further complement the dish I diced some tomatoes and onions and made a faux chipotle mayo mixing together:
3 tbsp mayo
½ tsp smoked paprika
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
A few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
Flip the chicken and give it another 5 minutes or so to finish up. While this is happening, add the buns oil side down and let them toast. Remove the chicken to a foil lined plate, squeeze whatever lime you can find onto the chicken and wrap it all up in the foil. Pull the buns off when they have crisped up. These need to be watched closely because you definitely don’t want burned buns.
All that is left is assembly.
Bun – guacamole – tomatoes – chicken – onions – mayo – bun.
Shaina added some spring mix to hers. I prefer iceberg or leaf lettuce on sandwiches so I passed on that. Since there is a lot going on between the buns, we rounded the meal out with some oven fries and called it good. Chips salsa and extra guacamole would have worked just as well.
I couldn’t find a nice bunch of cilantro, but that would have perfected the dish. It would be easiest to chop finely and add it to the guacamole. Next time for sure, and I guarantee that there will be a next time.
Don’t worry if you don’t have premixed Mojito around. Just use extra lime juice and rum or some orange juice. Don’t have smoked paprika, that’s fine, use regular. I never follow a recipe exactly anyway. This is just what I had to work with today.
Hopefully this Mojito-fueled dinner will inspire you to follow that narrow dirt path that leads to a very tasty conclusion.