Boneless skinless chicken breasts are a convenient go-to for so many cooks, from paleo-followers to budget-shoppers to busy moms. The mild flavor makes it incredibly versatile, so it’s easy to slip this cut of chicken into almost any recipe or flavor profile. It’s one of the leanest cuts of meat available, with a quarter pound boasting 34 grams of protein, and only 4 grams of fat.
The challenge with such low fat is, of course, keeping the meat tender and juicy. Even a minute or two extra of cook time can take dinner from succulent to stringy and tough. Grilling breasts brings extra risk, since cooking temperatures are high, narrowing the timing window, so it’s even more important to get it just right. A few tips will help tremendously here.
The biggest challenge is getting the inside meat to cook before the outside meat gets tough, so the best move you can make is to use smaller chicken cutlets. Organic or free-range chicken breasts solve this problem completely, or if you have larger conventional cutlets, trim them in half or thirds before cooking. Next, avoid cooking the meat when it’s super cold, by allowing it to sit at room temperature for a half hour before grilling. And heat the grill only to medium high, or if using charcoal, avoid putting breasts on the hottest part of the grill. Chicken breast meat is usually done a minute or two before I suspect it will be, so I always rely on an inexpensive meat thermometer, so I’m sure to remove the chicken right at 160 degrees, and let it rest for five minutes to keep the meat at maximum juiciness.
This recipe for Chicken Breast Provencal is inspired by ingredients typical of the region of Provence in the south of France, but easily found in a well-stocked American supermarket. Rose wine is the secret behind the simple marinade that imparts a lightly sweet flavor, but if you have a floral white wine at home, it will do the trick nicely, too. Olives — try to grab a handful of interesting ones at the salad bar —and roasted red peppers from a jar add Mediterranean color, and a tiny bit of balsamic syrup brings a bit of welcomed acidity. Your family will enjoy this dish because of its flavors, while you’ll know how healthy it actually is.
Chicken Breasts Provencal
Start to Finish: 15 minutes, plus marinating
Yield: 4 servings
4 chicken breasts cutlets, about 5 ounces each
1/3 cup rose wine (or fruity white wine)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence (or mix of oregano, marjoram and thyme)
¼ cup jarred roasted sweet red peppers, sliced, oil drained
¼ cup high-quality olives
1 tablespoon balsamic syrup(asterisk)
In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, place the chicken, wine, olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and mix well to coat the chicken breasts. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 8 hours refrigerated, allowing the final 30 minutes to be at room temperature.
When ready to cook, heat the grill (or a grill pan, if indoors) to medium high and lightly oil the grates. Lightly blot excess marinade off the chicken breasts and grill until cooked through and meat is 160 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 4-5 minutes per side. (Using a meat thermometer will help avoid overcooking.) Remove the chicken from the grill and place directly on warmed dish or platter. Top with the roasted red peppers and olives and drizzle with the balsamic syrup. Let chicken rest a few minutes, and serve. (For a quick homemade balsamic syrup: boil about ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar with ½ teaspoon of brown sugar in a small saucepan until reduced by half.)
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