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The universe may be telling you that grilling season is ending. It could be in the lavender suddenly streaking the sky at night, or the chill that is oddly in the air at 6 PM. Maybe it’s the slip ‘n slide rotting in the back yard. Or the onset of fall illnesses, for which you walk to the CVS for children’s Tylenol and some bubble bath, the latter of which you can’t find so you buy $20 wrinkle cream instead, and step on the corpse of a cicada on the way home.
But do not listen to the universe until you have made Finger-Lickin’ Finger Lakes Chicken. This recipe is about the best thing I can think to do with a bone-in chicken breast, and most of the work is done for you while you sleep or sit at work, wondering what you’re supposed to think about Burma (or is it Myanmar?) and why that guy who always wears checked shirts feels compelled to microwave his fish for lunch.
This is one of those recipes that one might read and say “Really?” a few times. Like when you realize you need an entire cup of grapeseed oil. Ditto for the Champagne vinegar. For the life of me, I do not understand why I make the lovely aioli, then put away half of it for future use. (I dutifully doubled this recipe, so I could offer four breasts to the neighbor night, but used only a cup-and-a-half of the oil and vinegar while doubling everything else.)
I cut up the rest of my herbs left in the garden (again! universe!) which meant lots of oregano and sage, a fair amount of thyme and not much rosemary. Any combination you have should work well and be liberal with your herbs.
Whipping this up takes about five minutes, then into the fridge the chicken breasts go for their 8-hour nap amongst the raw eggs.
When you get home, take your chicken out for 15 minutes or so while you fire up the grill, and put up some broccoli or mix up a salad while your chicken cooks. I know wssmom says to cook the chicken 15 to 20 minutes, but our bad boys were raw in the middle after 20 minutes, so my husband flipped them at that point and let them cook another five minutes bone up, before turning them once more to brown for another five.
These breasts are uncommonly juicy and extremely flavorful, both smoky and tangy, but not in that pucker way you might have figured. We ate it hot, but this chicken is mighty fine cold, too. Even though it rained in Brooklyn the day the Food52 crew shot this, causing them to pan roast the dish in the oven, my view is that this dish should not be replicated off the grill. So make it before the bathing suits and sunscreen are swapped out for scarves and earmuffs in the hall closet. I suspect you will want to do so twice.
Fresh Herb Aioli:
- 1 large organic egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup grapeseed oil
- 1 minced clove garlic
- pinch sea salt
- 1 cup champagne vinegar (yes, one cup)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
- some more salt
- In a suitable bowl, preferably one that won't spin around, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice and garlic. Add the oil a few drops at a time (or have someone do that for you), whisking until it emulsifies. Continue to dribble in the oil, whisking away, until all is incorporated.
- Put half the aioli in another bowl, saving the remainder for another use. Whisk in the vinegar, add the herbs and add a tad more salt than you think neccessary, about a teaspoon in my case.
Finger Lakes Chicken:
- 2 whole organic chicken breasts, split so you have four nice-sized pieces
- Freshly ground pepper
- Fresh herb aioli
- Liberally sprinkle the chicken breasts with freshly ground pepper, put them in a ziplock bag with the aoili, smush so they are covered, and let marinate for at least three hours, or preferably overnight.
- Grill, bone side down and covered, over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, then turn and crank up the grill to high to finish, so that the skin gets nice and crispy.
- Chill and bring along to your picnic, and serve along with some lovely dry riesling.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.