Saturday, January 02, 2010

Cumin marinated chicken breasts with chimichurri

This dish is inspired by one served at the casino. One Friday in mid-December, I walked into the casino's large central kitchen at the start of my shift. A lead cook instructed me to grill marinated chicken breasts on the broiler.

The sharp, nutty aroma of the cumin and coriander amazed me as it wafted into the exhaust system. I asked the lead cook what was in the marinate, "Cumin, cilantro, sage, coriander and lemon juice," said the cook.

This cook was well known in the kitchen for creating flavor blends. I quickly wrote the ingredients for the marinade in my notebook and finished the chicken.

To serve, the cook sliced the chicken breasts and arranged them in a single line down the center of a decrative buffet pan. After arrangining a line of the garnish on either side of the chicken, he ladled the chimichurri over the chicken and placed the pan on the buffet line.


Substitute any citrus juice for the lemon. Lime juice complements the marinade well.

Chicken and marinade:
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup vegetable oil
8 (5-ounce) chicken breasts

1 large sweet onion, sliced into rings
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and sliced (optional)
2 lemons, cut in half

1 cup flat leaf parsley (packed)
1/4 cup cilantro (packed)
2 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large container or bowl, combine cumin, coriander, sage, cilantro, salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil. Place chicken breasts in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare chimichurri up to 2 hours ahead. Puree all chimichurri ingredients in food processor or blender until consistency of pesto. Transfer to serving bowl.

Remove chicken from bowl and brush off excess marinade. Grill over medium-hot heat for about 20 minutes, turning after first 10 minutes. Check for doneness. Place chicken on a clean platter and cover with aluminum foil.

While chicken sets, saute garnish ingredients (sliced onion, quartered tomatoes and sliced jalapeño chilies) in a skillet over high heat until soft and they're just beginning to brown. Sqeeze lemon juice over onion and tomato mixture.

Slice chicken on the bias and arrange in a line in the center of a serving platter. Arrange garnish on either side of chicken. Lightly spoon chimichurri over chicken. Serve remaining chimichurri on the table.

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