There are three essential things I know about chicken. First, it’s the iconic Jewish Friday night dinner.
Second, although that iconic dish usually means roasted chicken, when warm weather comes I don’t want to be using the oven for hours. I want to keep dinner prep cool, quick and simple. Finally, chicken is like a basic black dress – you can do almost anything to dress it up or down, season it almost any way imaginable and cook it in a multitude of ways, so even if you serve it almost every Shabbat, it need never be boring.
For me, taking these three essentials to mind means using boneless chicken parts and cooking them on the grill. Our family prefers chicken breasts, which I buy (or pound with a meat mallet) to about an inch (more or less) thick. They take 8-10 minutes to cook through. The same recipes (marinades, seasonings and so on) work perfectly well for other bone-in or boneless parts, though the timing obviously needs to be adjusted. If it’s raining out and I can’t grill outside, I use the oven broiler or my grill pan. Timing is the same.
One of my favorite recipes for grilled chicken breasts started out as Bulgogi, the Korean beef dish. I used the marinade with flanken and after one bite I knew it would be perfect for chicken too. Bulgogi marinade is soy-sauce based and also just a bit sweet. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper or cayenne to give it a bit of heat, depending on my guests’ preference. The final garnish of sesame seeds makes plain old chicken attractive enough for the most festive dinners.
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 thick scallions, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, optional
- 4 large skinless and boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, optional
- Combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, garlic, scallions, ginger, black pepper and cayenne pepper, if used, in a dish large enough to hold the chicken breasts. Mix the ingredients well.
- Immerse the chicken and turn them a few times to coat all surfaces. (I usually place the chicken and marinade in a plastic bag.) Marinate for 2-3 hours, turning the meat from time to time.
- Preheat an outdoor grill or oven broiler. (You can also use a stovetop grill pan like this)
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill the breasts, brushing occasionally with the marinade, for about 8 minutes, turning once or twice, or until the breasts are cooked through.
- Sprinkle with the sesame seeds if desired.