Monday, March 15, 2010

Tropical Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa


Because of New Zealand's geographical location, the cuisine often gets a lot of influence from surrounding islands and culture. Often times, you'll see a lot of tropical ingredients used in 'Kiwi cuisine' including pineapple and spice mixtures that are influenced from India or southeast Asian countries. This dish was prepared by my friends Marie and Tom, who shared it at our recent Wine & Dine dinner to pair with New Zealand wines. It was refreshing, light and so delicious! 

The chicken was seasoned with a nice mixture of spices that imparted flavor and a nice, bright color. The seasoning rub works just as well with pork and turkey - something I would like to try myself soon! When paired with the sweet pineapple salsa, it was a beautiful match of flavors and textures. The salsa is great as an accompaniment to the meat or even on it's own for a nice alternative to traditional tomato based salsa. When serving this with New Zealand wines, you'll be able to pick up the tropical fruity notes of wines (especially in Sauvignon Blancs), making it a nice meal with a taste of the tropics!

Tropical Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa
recipe adapted from Fine Cooking

For the spice rub:
1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

For the salsa:
1/2 to 3/4 medium-size fresh pineapple, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
4 large radishes, trimmed and cut into small dice (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 medium orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice (about 2/3 cup)
3 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded lightly to about 3/4 inch thick
1-1/2 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, salt, ginger, and turmeric.

In a medium bowl, mix the pineapple, radishes, bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and pepper. Let stand while you grill the meat. Before serving, adjust the lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Build a hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill with all burners on high for at least 10 minutes. While the grill heats, lightly coat both sides of the pork chops, chicken breasts, or turkey cutlets with the oil and rub with the spice rub. Clean the hot grate with a wire brush; oil the grate. Alternately, you can use a grill pan on your stove top.

Grill the meat (uncovered for charcoal; covered for gas) over direct heat on the hottest part of the grill - or on your stove top with a grill pan, taking care not to crowd the meat. Cook until the meat forms impressive grill marks on one side, 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn and continue to grill (uncovered for charcoal; covered for gas) - or on your stove top with a grill pan - until the meat is just firm to touch and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes for chicken breasts, depending on their thickness. (If grilling pork, watch out for flare-ups.) Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the paired salsa spooned alongside or over the meat.