In my opinion both chicken breasts and pork tenderloin need some help. In our search for “low fat” we have bred the flavor out of them both. Chewy, tasteless, bland, dry…all those apply. So when I was served the most delicious marinated pork tenderloin at a friend’s house, I had to try it. I am not going to post the recipe for the pork tenderloin, you can search on-line to one from Chris Kimball at Cook’s. It involves halving the tenderloin crosswise, then pounding it to a thickness of approximately 3/4 of an inch. At that point you can score the meat and marinate if for 45 minutes (I think the more the better). However, don’t leave it too long or you will end up with ceviche pork because of the lime juice.
I thought, if this is so good with pork tenderloin, what will it do for chicken breasts? Oh yum! I modified the recipe only slightly to give it a little more heat. Use boneless chicken breasts with the skin if you can get them or bone out the breasts yourself. It takes a little practice but is easy with a small knife. Start by cutting at the center cartilage and slide a sharp knife between the breast bones and the meat until the breast is free of the rib and other bones. I keep the bones in a plastic bag in the freezer until I have enough to make stock or chicken soup.
Pound the breasts the same as the pork but to a thickness of 1/2 inch. That will both tenderize the meat and also hasten the cooking time.
Chili Lime Marinade
- 4 half chicken breasts, boneless but with the skin
- 2 limes, zested and squeezed
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used a mixture of canola and coconut)
For the sauce (optional)
- 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise
chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
- Bone the chicken breasts in not done already. Leave the skin on but trim any extra fat. Use a meat pounder to flatten them (I put the breasts into a gallon plastic bag for this chore) to about 1/2 inch.
- In a large bowl whisk together the lime zest, juice, garlic, honey, fish sauce, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle the vegetable oil into the mixture until it slightly thickens and becomes smooth.
- Measure out 1/2 cup of the marinade into a small, microwaveable bowl (if you intend to make a sauce), whisk in the 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise and set aside for later.
- Add the chicken breasts to the bowl with the marinade and turn to coat. You can then transfer everything to a ziplock gallon bag, press to remove as much air as possible, and refrigerate for an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Preheat a large, heavy bottomed skillet on the stove on medium high heat (or heat your charcoal grill). Once hot, brush with oil and place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Cook on the one side until browned and the breast releases easily. You will see the edges start to turn opaque, it will take about 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook another 10 minutes or until done to about 160 degrees F on the middle. They will cook quickly and continue to cook after you take the pan from the oven.
- Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing across the grain.
- If using the sauce, microwave it for 30 seconds until warm and stir in the chopped herbs. Pass the sauce with the chicken.