Sunday, March 13, 2011

Garlic Lime Chicken

The Box Monkey school of cooking can't claim credit for this. The original recipe comes from Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, However, it's been years since I've actually read the print recipe, so who knows how far I've drifted from that version. Let's hope I don't get sued.

You'll need:

2 Chicken breasts, halved.
4 lime slices, used as garnish.
6 to 8 limes, juiced.
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
8 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced.
about 2 Tbls of Olive oil.

Peel, crush, and mince the garlic cloves. Halve the chicken breasts. Heat the oil in a skillet, then toss in the garlic and the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides, about one minute a side. Be careful not to scorch the garlic.

Turn the heat down to a simmer. Pour in half the lime juice, and sprinkle half of the pepper and paprika on the chicken. Cover the skillet, and simer for about twenty minutes. Next, turn the chicken over, add the rest of the lime juice, sprinkle with the remaining pepper and paprika. Simmer for twenty more minutes.

Make very sure that you retain enough fluid to prevent scorching or burning. You can add a little water if needed. When this dish is pulled off perfectly, the lime juice will reduce itself to a tart, thick, syrupy brown sauce in the pan. This is in part due to the sugars in the sauce condensing and caramelizing. The resulting dish is zesty without being overly spicy or zappy, and tart with sweetness around the edges.

I like to serve this with plain couscous, made with a little olive oil, and some of the water in the couscous substituted out in favor of lime juice. Boxed couscous cooks up in about five minutes, and is dead easy: boil some water/lime juice, and pour in the olive oil. Add the couscous, turn off the heat, and cover. Wait five minutes, then fluff with a fork. I like to dust the couscous with a little paprika after plating it - the reddish brown dust and the green lime wedges add a little color to what is otherwise a pretty brown meal.

The wonder of this meal is how easy and reliable it is. It works pretty well with bottled lime juice and frozen chicken breasts, so it's easy to keep ingredients around ready for short notice meals. Yet it's tasty and interesting enough to serve to company: whether to a person of the appropriate sex, or their parents, or other company that needs impressing.


Googlebombing for a cause:

It's also a nice example of the box monkey cooking philosophy. Add a little sage, some cumin, and turn up the spice with jalapeno or chipotle peppers and this becomes vaguely Tex-Mex. Remove the paprika, cayenne, and cut down on the garlic, trade the lime juice for orange juice, and throw in a cinnamon stick, and you'll get a vaguely West Asian orange chicken dish. Add some fresh ginger instead of the cinnamon stick, dust it with turmeric, and it will taste more like an East Asian orange chicken. One recipe will generate a half dozen different dishes with a little creativity.

1 comment:

Lord Carnifex said...

Incidentally, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook is a lovely little work. It has a number of recipies from around the world, mostly from people who have to stretch every calorie and make the most of limited means. The various ethnic recipes are from people who actually cook that way, using the ingredients in their own environments, not high-powered chefs who are trying to capture the "essence" of ethnic cooking and packaging it for an audience. I highly recommend the book, myself. Sadly, the copy I used to use moved out with it's owner, so if you don't plan to own a copy yourself, make sure you date someone who does.