September 20, 2013

Caribbean Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice and Pineapple Rum Salsa

It's not even October yet and I'm already getting bored of my typical weeknight dinners. As much as I love my Croque Poulet, a girl can only have so much bacon. Well, maybe not, but I do want new, bright flavors that (literally) add spice to my meal. The recipe is extremely simple and can be edited to fit your taste; all you have to do is make the marinade, let the chicken sit for a few hours, and grill until cooked through and juicy. I like to serve it over coconut lime rice with a pineapple rum salsa for extra flavor. Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients; the majority are either pureed into the chicken marinade or chopped into the salsa. Remember, this is an entire meal in one recipe, and it's still easy despite all the stuff in it.

Allspice is a necessity in Caribbean cooking, and it adds a nice fall-esque warmth to the whole dish. Soy sauce and ginger are surprising ingredients; yes, they can be welcome additions to non-Asian dishes. You don't need much salt because the soy sauce is such a perfectly savory substitute. The red onion and scallions add a bit of bite, and the orange juice and lime add a tart zestiness. There's one more element of flavor that is a key part of Caribbean dishes: the heat. I prefer to add jalapeño and cayenne to taste; you can reduce the amount of either if you want less spice or use more or spicier chiles if you want a spicier dish.

I'll admit that it's an unlikely combination of flavors. However, they all work together to make a hearty, satisfying dinner. I like to serve it over rice, which soaks up the extra marinade and tones down the heat a bit, but it would also be fantastic with some grilled vegetables. This is definitely going to be a staple on my weeknight dinner menu!

The coconut lime rice is an addictive spin on plain rice. It can be served with all sorts of dishes, but it pairs perfectly with this chicken because it emphasizes the citrusy notes. It's as easy as cooking regular rice, so the main trick is to keep the pot covered at all times. If you feel the need to stir it, grab the handle of the pot and shake it a little bit. Opening the lid lets out a lot of moisture, and you want tender, sticky rice.

The pineapple rum salsa can also be served with just about anything or even just eaten with chips as a delicious appetizer. In addition to the diced pineapple and a hearty splash of rum, I add jicama for crunch. Jicama is a crunchy root vegetable with a slightly sweet flavor, like a cross between an apple and a potato. I also add some red onion and minced jalapeno before tossing it in a citrusy rum dressing. The salsa adds a welcome splash of color to the dish as well as sweetness, tartness, and texture.

1 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2-1 tsp Cayenne
2 T Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Red Onion
1/2 Cup Sliced Scallions
2 T Olive Oil
2 Oranges
4 Limes
2 T Soy Sauce
1-2 Jalapenos, Diced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
1-2 Habaneros, Diced
2 T Grated Fresh Ginger
5 Cloves Garlic
1 1/2 lbs Chicken Breast or Thighs
1 Pineapple, Diced
1 1/3 Cups Diced Jicama
1/2 Cup Rum
1 Cup Light Coconut Milk
1 Cup Vegetable Broth
2 Cups Rice

Combine the allspice, chili powder, cayenne, brown sugar, 1/2 cup red onion, scallions, olive oil, zest and juice from 1 orange and 2 limes, soy sauce, diced jalapenos and habaneros, ginger, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Toss the chicken in the marinade and let sit for 4-8 hours.

Combine the pineapple, remaining onion, minced jalapeno, and jicama. Whisk the juice from one orange and one lime together with the rum. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the pineapple mixture in the citrus juice mixture.

Combine the coconut milk and vegetable broth in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the juice from one lime.

Grill the chicken until cooked through.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Guy Fieri

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