For much of this coming holiday weekend, my husband and I will be caught up in reunion events at Amherst College where he teaches. There will be tent parties with catered food as classes of alums gather to reconnect, many receptions, plus scores of interesting seminars and talks. But by Sunday the festivities will have wound down, and that’s when I plan to pull out the grill and start cooking!
I’ve been tweaking a recipe for Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Avocado Salsa for several days now, and finally have the seasonings and timings fine-tuned. Exceptionally easy and inexpensive (if you’re serving a crowd), this chicken entree takes less than an hour to assemble plus some marinating time, and then about 25 minutes atop the coals. Why thighs instead of breasts? Because the dark meat stands up to grilling beautifully, and doesn’t dry out as quickly as does the white flesh.
Marinated simply in lime juice and olive oil along with coarse salt and red pepper flakes, the chicken becomes moist and fork-tender when cooked. A tomato and avocado salsa scented with fresh mint and cilantro, which you can assemble while the poultry is marinating, is spooned atop the golden thighs at serving time. As sides, add some saffron rice studded with peas and/or bits of sautéed chorizo along with a romaine salad sprinkled with queso fresco.
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Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Avocado Salsa
8 large bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (3 to 3 1/2 lbs total)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
Fleur de sel or other sea salt
Tomato Avocado Salsa
2 cups red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 ripe avocados, peeled, halved lengthwise, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds and membranes removed –see cooking tip)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1. For the chicken, trim and discard any dangling skin from the thighs and then pat them dry with clean paper towels. In a large, shallow nonreactive pan (pyrex works well), whisk together the lime juice, zest, kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil until blended. Add the chicken and turn several times to coat well. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken an hour, turning once or twice. Remove from the fridge and marinate 40 minutes longer at room temperature.
2. For the salsa, place the tomatoes, avocados, red onion, jalapeno pepper, and garlic in a large, nonreactive bowl. Add the olive oil, lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, mint, cilantro, and cumin. Toss gently to combine. Season with more salt if needed. Salsa can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
3. To grill chicken, oil a grill rack and arrange it 4 to 5 inches from the heat source. Prepare grill for a medium fire. Grill chicken until charred lightly and juices run clear when pierced with knife, turning occasionally, and moving the pieces around on top of the grill so that they cook evenly, about 25 minutes. A thermometer should read 165 to 170 degrees. (You can also cook the chicken on a stovetop grill pan set over medium heat. Oil the pan lightly, and grill the chicken, turning several times, 20 to 25 minutes.)
4. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Spoon half of the salsa over and around the thighs. Pass remaining salsa in a serving bowl. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.
Cooking tip- Be sure to wear rubber gloves when chopping hot peppers such as jalapenos. Without them the oil from the peppers that rubs off on your fingers can produce a burning sensation when you touch the tissues around the nose, mouth, and eyes.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2017