I know that I tend to wax a little hyperbolic around these parts, but after I made this dinner these words came out of my mouth:
"I may never cook chicken any other way ever again."
OK, that's a little dramatic.
But I may never cook chicken breasts any other way ever again. Over the past few years, I've developed a real distaste for chicken breasts, mostly because the texture of your average grocery store offerings has just become dreadful—it tastes waterlogged and pumped full of ... something. It manages to somehow become both mealy and stringy at the same time, and so enormous as to make me uneasy and them impossible to cook to satisfaction. Dry on the outside, suspect on the inside; this is the new world of white meat chicken.
And the smaller, higher quality, more expensive organic chicken breasts don't get a pass, either—they often seem big and bland to me, too.
So what's a carnivore to do? I will continue to buy those better breasts, but instead I'll cook them like this: marinated in tenderizing citrus and jammed onto a skewer shwarma style, and then charred over a great big heat.
I have a healthy (I hope) fear of fire, so I will admit I use my sweet little outdoor Weber as a rain gauge. I cooked these inside, on a grill pan, but they would be wonderful with a nice charcoal smoke to them, too. I have convinced myself that the gas flame beneath my pan means it counts as grilling. Don't burst my bubble.
An hour in the marinade is just about perfect—any longer and that lemon will have a chance to overdo it. I used sour cream here, but you can substitute plain Greek yogurt. Just look for the lowest sugar content you can find, because you want the color on the chicken to develop slowly, without burning.
The flavor is bright and summery, which means it pairs beautifully with almost anything—lemony orzo, garlicky new potatoes, even just a simple tomato salad. I went with yellow squash, which I don't even like but thought would be pretty. And it turns out if you sauté that business in butter and toss in basil and cheese, you will like just about anything! I scarfed down those veggies faster than I ever thought I would.
Turns out I'm never making yellow squash any other way again, either.
I used a vegetable peeler to cut the squash into thin ribbons. That's required, but it does mean that it cooked in about 30 seconds. You want it to be tender but still crunchy, and not have a time to sweat out, which will give you kind of a watery mushiness. Just in the butter, toss, garlic salt, pepper, less than a minute, and off the heat to stir in the cheese and basil. It's light, delicious, and perfect for the season.
Easy Grilled Chicken Skewers
1½ pounds chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sour cream
Juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dry oregano
1. Thread chicken onto skewers, pressing pieces very close together. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and remaining ingredients. Pour marinade over chicken skewers in a shallow dish, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour.
2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Grill skewers, turning occasionally, 20 minutes or until outside is well marked and chicken is cooked through. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Yellow Squash Ribbons with Feta and Basil
3 yellow squash
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup feta cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. Trim ends from squash, and peel into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler.
2. Heat butter in a skillet until melted; add squash and garlic salt and pepper to taste, and cook, tossing constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese and basil. Makes 4 servings.