I have a secret.
I have never cooked anything on a grill.
I know, in theory, I can master it. I’ve watched my dad searing steaks since I was tall enough to see past his elbow; and during the summers he occasionally relinquishes control enough to let me tend to the coals on our little Weber grill in Finland. (At least when we’re making sauna Makkara, which are glorified hot dogs.) Still, it seems much of my cooking career has involved the eschewal of open flame.
I made pan-seared oven roasted filet mignon when my parents left town last summer because they banned me from the use of the grill in their absence (I know how to party!) and on the rare occasions my lazy college friends and I can organize for a barbeque, I usually quietly prepare the marinade and let the boys play with fire.
I’m sick of dancing around my own lack of experience, but a grill isn’t always easy to come by living on campus, and charcoal is an expense I’d prefer not to worry about. (Last time we forgot the charcoal altogether and used fallen sticks and branches.) But I miss good, juicy, smoky grilled food.
Thankfully, there is a way to enjoy grilled food without venturing into the world of smoke and lighter fluid and potential destruction. A way to enjoy homemade grilled food from a dorm room, even… like this grilled chimichurri marinated chicken. All you need is a Panini press and an electrical outlet.
What You Need:
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- freshly ground black pepper
For the chimichurri:
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
- splash of balsamic vinegar
- juice of ¼ lemon
- 4 cloves garlic
- bunch of basil leaves
- bunch of thyme, leaves picked
- bunch of cilantro, leaves picked
- dried sage
- dried oregano
- dried red pepper flakes
What You Do:
Season both sides of each chicken breast with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.
In a blender, pulse the herbs and dried spices with the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar until it forms a paste. Be patient; it may take some time for the herbs to break down, but you can add more olive oil (1 tablespoon at a time) as needed.
Combine the chimichurri with the chicken breasts in a plastic bag, making sure to cover all sides of the chicken, and marinate for about a half an hour in the fridge.
Preheat the Panini press to high heat according to the fabricator’s instructions. Lightly brush the hot plates with oil, and when the machine is hot, place the chicken inside and lightly press down on the top for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, but leave the top closed on the chicken. Sear for one to three minutes for grill lines, and then reduce the heat to medium so the chicken can continue cooking. Grill for 6 to 10 minutes more or until the chicken is browned on the outside and cooked through. (Cooking time may vary; be sure to cut a piece and check the inside before serving.)
I love this dish served with crispy roasted sweet potato medallions and a spinach salad with tzatziki dressing. Juicy and flavorful, fragrant with fresh herbs and browned with crispy smoky grill lines, this technique will tide me over for now, but I fully intend to master the grill when I go home.
I promise I won’t burn the house down, Mom and Dad.
Category: Basic Training