Photo credit Alex Harris
There are millions of recipes for chicken out there which is sometimes rather more daunting than it is helpful. Not to mention the chicken thighs (cheaper, more tender, slightly more nutritious and some say tastier) versus chicken breasts (delicate, lighter tasting and nicer to look at) debate. In my house the latter is easily resolved as none of us like to eat meat off the bone and my son draws the line at dark meat. He is normally so unfussy about food I am happy to indulge him in this one small peccadillo. This is the young man who, as a child, used to beg me to buy brussels sprouts. I kid you not.
So, if I’m not cooking a whole chicken, you can rest assured I will be cooking chicken breasts. However one major issue with chicken breasts is that they can be less than tender and occasionally lacking in flavour. An easy way round this is to marinate them in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours before cooking. Less than this is fine too, if you, like me, rarely know what you will be eating for dinner 12 hours in advance.
You can cook the chicken however you like after marinating it. I often pan fry it or roast the chicken breasts in the oven. If you choose the latter option you may even want to cut a couple of red onions and an orange in quarters and then eights, toss them in the marinade too and roast them along with the chicken. For the photograph above I sliced the raw chicken before marinating, stir fried it with some peppers, onions and zucchini and served it over rice. I love recipes that have many incarnations, and this marinade is definitely one of those.
Orange Balsamic Marinade
for 4 chicken breasts
⅓ cup mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
the juice and grated rind of one large orange
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 generous teaspoon dried basil
large pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
Mix together the oil, juice and rind of the orange and balsamic vinegar. I place a large zip lock bag in a bowl so it doesn’t fall over and put the ingredients in it.
Grate in the garlic clove, or if you haven’t got any garlic, add half a teaspoon of garlic salt. (If you do this, please leave out the large pinch of salt.)
Add the dried basil, salt and pepper and stir gently.
Add the chicken breasts (either whole or sliced), seal the bag and gently squidge the meat around in the marinade. I put the whole lot on a large plate (being very sure that the zip lock seal is indeed zip locked!) and work the marinade round the meat. Put in the fridge for up to 12 hours.
If you are pan frying or stir frying the chicken, add a little of the marinade to the pan as you begin cooking (never use any ‘raw’ marinade after the chicken is cooked). For roasting, I take the chicken breasts out of the marinade, nestle them in amongst some onions and oranges and then pour about half the marinade over the top. It’s a good idea to cover the roasting pan with foil for the first half of cooking. Depending on your oven and the thickness of the chicken breasts, this should take between 25 and 40 minutes to cook at about 350ºF (175ºC). Whenever you cook chicken you want to be sure that no pink remains inside and that it reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.