Summertime tang

  • Slices of pineapple marinated in honey and butter sizzling on the grill. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Chicken breasts cooking on the grill. Covering the chicken with flour and seasoning gives it a distinctly charred flavor that pairs well with the pineapple. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Charred pineapple chicken with a sweet chili ginger sauce served alongside roasted carrots and lime-infused Israeli couscous. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Fruit such as pineapple can add a burst of flavor to grilled food. Wikimedia Commons

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2020 10:09:40 AM

From the first bite, it’s a tangy explosion of flavor. Fruity pineapple juice rolls over the palate, accenting the bitter crispiness of chicken blackened by flame. The experience is finished by the sharp bite of sweet chili sauce that’s been drizzled over everything.

At the height of the season’s blisteringly hot evenings, when the air is alive with electricity and the clouds are pregnant with rain, there aren’t many pastimes better than grilling. It’s an experience that activates all five senses: The sizzle of chicken; flames flickering; tantalizing smoke rising; radiant heat. Of course, the effort is rewarded by the distinct taste of grilled food.

In this, summertime fare is about flavorful balance. August nights call for culinary contrast — sweet with tangy; soft and crispy; fresh over savory.

There are classic pairings like strawberries and whipped cream, hot butter and corn, blueberries and lemon. Sandwiched between two slices of sourdough bread, lettuce and tomato are a decedent vehicle for savory bacon. Likewise, thinly sliced pineapple discs make the perfect bed for charred drumsticks.

The flavor combination works well because it’s balanced. The pineapple, sliced into discs and marinated in honey and butter beforehand, is bursting with juicy flavor.

In contrast, the charred chicken (covered with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper and seasoning to enhance the effect) is a little bit bitter with a savory punch that mingles wonderfully on the palate.

Served alongside roasted veggies and a more mellow grain (for example, lime-infused Israeli couscous works really well) with a tangy sauce poured over everything, and this bright culinary combination gets pretty close to summertime perfection.

Charred Pineapple ChickenWith Sweet Chili Ginger Sauce

Note that the following recipe was invented on the fly, so measurement estimations shouldn’t be followed as law. Cook to taste. Substitutions are encouraged based on personal preference. All prep work — for the chicken, pineapple, grain and veggie side — should be completed first because once everything is on the cooktop, the process moves fairly quickly.

1 fresh pineapple

4 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons butter

4 chicken drumsticks

½ cup flour

Chicken seasoning to taste (I used McCormick's)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

¼ cup pineapple juice

1 fresh lime

½ cup sweet chili sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons shaved ginger

For the charred pineapple: To begin, turn on the grill to around medium-high. Slice all of the skin from the pineapple and put it into a Ziploc bag. Compress the bag of scraps to squeeze out the juice. Turn the remaining fruit onto its side and slice it into ¼ inch circular discs. Put the discs into a second Ziploc bag or another type of container. Melt the two tablespoons of butter and, along with the honey, drizzle over the pineapple discs, covering them completely. Set aside to marinate.

For the chicken: In a small bowl, combine the ½ cup flour with the chicken seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Cover the chicken drumsticks in olive oil followed by the flour and seasoning mixture. Sizzle on the grill for about 10 minutes or until it’s cooked completely through and the skin is blackened. After five minutes or so, add the pineapple discs, cooking evenly on both sides until they’re slightly charred.

For the sauce: Meanwhile, shave the ginger and halve the lime. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Once it’s hot, add the pineapple juice that’s been squeezed from the scraps. It should become a little bit frothy. Stir in the ginger shavings and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn down the heat, making sure not to overcook the ginger and squeeze about half the lime over the pan. Stir in the sweet chili sauce to taste and simmer for about five minutes until it’s congealed. 

Arrange the charred chicken on top of the pineapple slices on a plate along with the veggies and grain. Pour the sauce liberally over the chicken. Scallion greens or cilantro can be used as a topping.

Basil Roasted Carrots

4 carrots

Olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh basil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and slice the carrots diagonally into ¼ inch pieces. Chop basil. Toss them on a baking pan with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes.

Lime-Infused Israeli Couscous

1 cup dry Israeli couscous

1½ cups water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 lime

1 scallion

Salt and pepper

Trim and thinly slice the scallion, separating white pieces from green pieces. Zest and halve the lime. Heat the olive oil in a pan; add the white scallion pieces and saute for a few minutes, until fragrant. Pour in the dry couscous and stir until it’s slightly browned. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit until the water has been absorbed. Squeeze half the lime over the pot and stir in the zest along with the butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with scallion greens.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.


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