Saturday, October 2, 2010

RECIPE - Caipirinha Grilled Chicken (Frango com Marinada Caipirinha)

When I lived in Canada, one of my favorite recipes for grilling chicken was called "Margarita Grilled Chicken". In the dish, pieces of chicken were marinated overnight in a mixture of tequila and fresh lime juice, then simply grilled over charcoal or propane. The result was spectacular and guests always raved about the tenderness and flavor of the meat. I guess almost any meat would be tender after bathing 24 hours in a tequila bath!

I was thinking the other day that this recipe would probably be just as successful made with cachaça, Brazil's distilled sugar cane liquor. So I thought I would give it a whirl. After all, if tequila and lime juice combine to become a margarita marinade, cachaça and lime juice would make a caipirinha marinade just as simply.

I made it out the other night, and as I suspected, the dish was wonderful. I used gold cachaça, which is aged and has a slightly stronger flavor than white cachaça, and it was a good substitution, as even after grilling, the chicken retained the citric flavor of the limes and the taste of cachaça. I had guests over for the "test", and they all loved the dish, though none of them had ever previously eaten the margarita version. For me, both recipes - the one with tequila or the one with cachaça - are winners, but being a Brazilophile, I'm going to go with Caipirinha Chicken from here on out.
RECIPE - Caipirinha Grilled Chicken (Frango com Marinada Caipirinha)
Serves 6

1 cup (250 ml) fresh-squeezed lime juice.
1/2 cup (125 ml) cachaça
1/4 cup (125 ml) cilantro, finely chopped
2 chili peppers, serrano or jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. Mexican chili powder
1 tsp. salt
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
6 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
Begin the day before serving. Mix all ingredients, except the chicken, in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add chicken breasts, and turn several times in the marinade to coat completely. Cover the bowl, and place in refrigerator, overnight or up to 24 hours. Turn the chicken pieces in the marinade once or twice.

Prepare grill and brush grill rack with oil. Heat to medium hot. Remove chicken pieces from marinade, and grill until cooked through, turning once, about 9 minutes per side. Transfer to platter, decorate with thin slices of lime, and serve immediately.