I know the song says “It Never Rains In California,” but that really isn’t true. “It seldom rains in Southern California” is more like it. And, to the delight of backyard grillers, it seldom rains badly enough to hamper outdoor grilling. On the West Coast, anyone who has access to an outdoor area can pretty much make grilling a year-round activity. The folks I've met in New England count the days until the weather becomes warm enough to head outside with barbecue tools in hand. Now that this California girl has become a New Englander I can relate, but unfortunately, we traded in our Cali home and backyard for a Cambridge apartment, with no backyard!
The call of the outdoors, and memories of delicious and smoky barbecued dishes grilled to perfection were almost too much for me to bear. I’ve often heard how resourceful New Englanders have had to be throughout history, dealing with Mother Nature’s capriciousness, and although I’ve lived here not yet even a year, I've tried to adopt that characteristic with respect to grilling. With the help of my trusty indoor grill pan, and my oven, I managed to make some tasty grilled chicken breasts. I found that pounding the breasts very thin, quick-grilling them on the stove to give them some nice grill marks, and then finishing them up in the oven produces a reasonable facsimile of an outdoor barbecued entree. And, it is a delicious dish in and of itself! I came across a great recipe from Andie at canyoustayfordinner.com, and changed it up a bit by adding some red pepper paste to the marinade. (If you cannot find it in the market, you can puree a jar of roasted red peppers with a little olive oil in the blender. The remaining puree can be added to store-bought tomato sauce to give it a homemade touch.)
A green salad and some cool, summery side dishes, like this or this would be great additions to the chicken. I started “grilling” burgers too using this method below, and while I do expect to get my backyard and outdoor grill back again someday, this will tide me over just fine.
(adapted from canyoustayfordinner.com)
4 sun-dried tomatoes, drained
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. roasted red pepper paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2c. white wine
1 1/2lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
Using a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy saucepan, pound out your chicken breasts (shiny side up) between two sheets of plastic wrap to about a 1/2” thickness. Place in a shallow glass Pyrex dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Combine remaining ingredients except the white wine in a blender and pulse until you have a thick puree.
Pour half of the mixture over the chicken and rub it in. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Reserve the remaining half of the sauce, at room temperature, for serving.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a grill pan with 1 tablespoon of oil, and heat it over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, place the breasts in, in a single layer, shiny side up. Grill the breasts for about 2-3 minutes, until grill marks can be seen. Flip them over and repeat for another 2-3 minutes.
Pour about 2 tablespoons white wine into the grill pan and swirl it around.
Place pan in the preheated oven and bake chicken for 10-15 minutes. (Check chicken after the 10-minute mark. If it is no longer pink, it’s done.)
Mix remaining marinade with the remaining white wine. Pour over the chicken and serve.