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Well my friends, we can now say summer is officially here. Ok, maybe it’s not officially here according to the calendar; however it is here officially according to my standard definition of summer. Has it been hot enough for me to sweat and to contemplate it being too hot to fish? The answer to both of those is yes, so therefore summer is upon us.
As if the first two weren’t enough, the further proof that summer has arrived is the appearance of grills, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s like water on the lawns caused grills to spring out of the soil. So with that, let’s talk grilling.
Grilling is one of the great rites of passage in this country. People take their grilling seriously, and they don’t mess around with it. The grill is a sacred instrument, and people dare not touch another’s grill without first asking. There are secret sauces, rubs, techniques and of course, methods for making the perfect meat.
I will note here quickly, never think you’ve tasted the perfect pizza until you’ve tasted a grilled one. That, however, is a story for another article.
Grilling is the best of the best when it comes to food: outdoors, typically involves family and friends and takes some time so we get to socialize. One thing I get a lot of questions about, usually in private as people don’t want their grilling acumen to be discussed out loud, is how long to grill certain foods and what to put on them.
Meat on the grill is a fantastic thing. The smells alone can bring neighbors for miles. On the flipside of that coin, over or under cooked meat can run them off just as fast. The thing about the grill is you have to trust yourself. What I mean by that is know how long things take to cook and stick with it. After using your grill a time or two, you will figure out how long chicken or steaks or burgers take. Use that time and trust it.
Meat should be flipped once during cooking. Cook it on one side, flip it and finish cooking and take it off. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t squash down on the meat, which forces the juices out of it. You can apply a bit of pressure to it to feel how much it has cooked, but not too hard. Just a nice gentle touch.
Learn which sides of your grill are the hottest. Gas grills are notorious for having hotspots, but even charcoal does it according to how you get the coals spread out. Avoid these hotspots as food tends to cook best on even heat, not over a spot that is so hot it burns quickly.
Lastly, do not cut into the meat to see if it’s done. Trust your time and keep track of it. As soon as you cut into it you can watch all the delicious juices pour onto the coals.
So now for marinating. My son makes the best steak rubs and marinades ever. I can’t give you the recipe because I’ve never asked him. Honestly, it’s his deal, but I can say this. A simple marinate can be made from olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of bourbon. Add spices that you like, and now you have a custom marinate that fits exactly what you like.
In a pinch, use Italian dressing and add garlic and smoked paprika to it. Keep in mind, marinades need time to add flavors; rubs add flavor instantly.
So, today’s recipe is one that I love on chicken. It does work well on pork chops and steaks, but it really shines on chicken. If you don’t like spicy foods, use finely chopped banana peppers or even green or red bell peppers. Remember, it’s about what you like. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and eat well always my friends.
Four Pepper Chicken
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
½ cup of olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, finely chopped
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 small banana pepper, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl, add olive oil, wine vinegar and peppers and stir to mix. Add chicken breasts and turn to coat all sides. Allow to marinate for 1-2 hours in marinate. Remove chicken breasts and discard marinate. Grill or broil chicken until juices run clear. Note: wear disposable gloves whenever handling hot peppers.
Shawn Keeton is author of the cookbook, “Keeton in the Kitchen, A Celebration of Family, Friends and Food.” He resides in Carrollton, Ky.