Am I the only person always looking for new ways to cook chicken? Probably. It’s a weekday go-to protein in our house for lunch and dinner, so after a while it feels like I’m just recycling the same old variations. While spiced up versions are always a hit with Mr T (the hotter the better), the littler people in our house are less keen. So here I am looking for tasty but different ways to flavour it. I should preface this by admitting I’ve never been a fan of coriander; a bad experience of soapy coriander-overload left me avoiding it for a long time, but recently I’ve rediscovered an appreciation for its floral citrus tang, especially in Mexican dishes. Looking back at the hit list of recipes I planned when I first flicked through this book, I realise how I’ve already deviated, but much of the joy of a new recipe book comes from finding unexpected triumphant dishes in between the showstoppers. Hidden gems, of which this is one.
Back to the chicken. I give it a little roll and not too enthusiastic bash in between some clingfilm to make it all the same thickness so it cooks evenly and immerse it in its marinade of lime juice, minced garlic, olive oil and salt. In a move that is quite unlike me, I remembered to zest the lime first and set it aside with some chopped coriander. It doesn’t look like much sitting on a side plate, but the intense smell from such a little platter of green really sums this dish up – fresh, citrus and sweetly acidic. Once the pan has started to smoke, I spritz it with oil and add the chicken breast, which has started to turn white from the lime juice, a bit like a chicken ceviche. It doesn’t take long to brown on both sides and, just to be sure it’s cooked ok, I put the cast iron griddle into the oven for a few minutes. This is the time when a meat thermometer is really worth its salt; overcooked, chewy chicken is not appetising and it’s so easy to give it too long just to make sure it’s done and then…dry and stringy. So after a few minutes I take the out, check its temperature and out it comes.
Sprinkled with the lime zest and coriander it really does look quite festive. I leave it to rest a while and have half a chicken breast with some salad even though it’s not quite lunchtime yet. I didn’t have skin-on fillets, so I’ve left out frying the chicken skin and crumbling it over the lettuce, but can definitely see the appeal. This feels like a good, honest and healthy dish; I can be quite a plain eater sometimes, but I love recipes where you can really taste the ingredients and appreciate them. What stands out here is how delicate and beautiful coriander can be, but at the same time it can more than hold its own against the punch of the lime and the garlic hums rather than stings. Mr T later makes a salad of his own, complete with beetroot, feta, hummus and some of the red hot roast salsa I made earlier in the week (he’s a more is more kinda guy). I walk past and notice the dish with the other half of my chicken is now empty and am told this is entirely my fault for making such nice food. I scold myself at my rookie error – in a house of boys always, always hide or blatantly label any food you want to eat later.