Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chimichurri Sauce
I love barbecued chicken breasts but sometimes they can turn out to be dry and without much flavor. I have a couple of different techniques I like to use to avoid these pitfalls. Make sure to barbecue the chicken on medium-high heat quickly so it doesn’t have time to dry out. Cook the breasts with the skin on for a juicier result. Marinate them for up to 2 hours ahead of cooking to add flavor without changing the texture of the chicken. (The only caveat to this is if you are using a sticky-sweet barbecue sauce. If you are, just season the breasts and rub them with oil before cooking. Wait until five minutes before the chicken is done to brush on the sweet sauce so it doesn’t remain over the flame long enough to burn.) And finally, make sure that the breasts are all uniform in size for even cooking by pounding them between sheets of waxed paper.
This recipe works perfectly with lean chicken breasts. This simple sauce and marinade is celebrated throughout South America where it appears on grilled meats everywhere. In Argentina it is as common as ketchup is to us. I have added sweet white balsamic vinegar to the mixture. Most of us are familiar with the red balsamic variety. This white vinegar is produced by adding cooked-down grape juice to ordinary white wine vinegar which gives it an amber color and slightly sweet flavor.
Legend has it that the derivation of the word “Chimichurri” comes from the British laborers in Argentina who when they saw bowls of the ubiquitous sauce would request it by saying “Give me Curry”. Through the years this phrase evolved into the term chimichurri.
The basics of chimichurri sauce remain the same: parsley, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Any additions make it your own signature dish. Some ideas include adding capers, shredded carrots, celery, red bell pepper and even anchovies. Some remain uncooked and others meld all the ingredients together by simmering them for a few minutes. Try this version and then put your own personal stamp on it.
Help is on the Way: To pound the chicken breasts use a rolling pin, meat pounder or even the bottom of a heavy pot. Don’t forget to try this with grilled steak, lamb, veal or pork. It will become a standby for last minute dinners.
- 10 medium garlic cloves, peeled and dark ends removed
- 1 medium bunch Italian parsley, stems removed
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup water or chicken stock
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes, or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons Chimichurri sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 whole medium chicken breasts, halved, boned and flattened
- In a food processor fitted with the metal blade puree the garlic. Add the parsley and process until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, water and seasonings and process. Taste for seasoning. It should be very flavorful and spicy. Adjust if necessary.
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Place the chicken breasts in a zip-lock bag and pour in the marinade. Make sure the marinade is evenly distributed. Zip the bag and refrigerate for ½ to 4 hours.
- Prepare the barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill about 3 inches from the flame for 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until no pink color is showing.
- Place on a platter and serve with the sauce on the side.
- Advance Preparation: The sauce can be made up to 5 days ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator ½ hour before serving.