Fragrant emerald mint growing outside my kitchen door beckoned with the freshness of spring and warmer weather to come. More than just a pretty leaf to decorate desserts, mint adds lovely, refreshing flavor when used in savory dishes. By making a quick, easy vinaigrette with fresh squeezed lemon juice and chopped mint leaves, you have both a marinade and a sauce to finish the chicken before serving.
Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trim the little tenderloin piece (if there is one). Place chicken breasts two at a time, smooth side up, in a heavy-duty plastic zip bag. Pound the thicker end to make the chicken breasts more even in thickness. When pounding the chicken, pound firmly but not so hard that you tear the meat. Use a smooth sided meat pounder or a small, heavy flat-bottomed fry pan. If you don’t have a meat pounder, they are inexpensive and worthwhile kitchen tool to add to your collection.
Whisk together your vinaigrette and add half to the plastic zip bag with the chicken to marinate for a few hours in the refrigerator. Save the rest of the vinaigrette to use as a sauce for the grilled chicken breasts when serving.
Heat up your grill (we use gas) on high for about 10 minutes, then clean the grates with a stiff grill brush. Turn the heat down to medium. Next, with tongs and a wad of folded paper towels dipped in a little grapeseed or canola oil and brush the grill grates to help prevent sticking. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade from the bag. Place chicken breasts on the grill, smooth side down first.
To get restaurant-worthy grill marks, think 10:00 and 2:00 like the positions on the face of a clock. Start chicken breasts with one end pointed at 10 and allow the marks to develop, then move to 2 and you’ll get perfect grill marks. After a few minutes when the chicken is golden, turn the chicken breasts over and complete grilling on the other side.
The most accurate way to test for doneness is with a digital thermometer, another must-have kitchen tool. For food safety, chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees (74 C)s. I pull mine off the grill at 160 degrees and cover with foil for a few minutes while the temperature rises a few degrees.
With a little practice you will know when they are done by touch. They will be firm but still have a little give to them. As soon as you pull them from the grill, brush with fresh vinaigrette and serve with more at the table as a sauce.
For a refreshing warm weather dinner, use the chicken to top a salad. I like to add cubes of sweet watermelon, crumbles of tangy feta cheese and finish with my lemon mint vinaigrette. Another idea, grill halved small zucchini with your chicken and dress them both with the vinaigrette.
With summer around the corner it’s becoming barbecue season. Time to get outside, enjoy warmer days and the pleasures outdoor cooking.
Before grilling, allow the chicken breasts to sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to take the chill off.