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Brined Grilled Chicken Breasts with Red Chile Oil

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Serves six.

  • Make the menu:
    Splendor in the Grass
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 99

This brine not only keeps the chicken moist, but the sugar in it helps the chicken brown nicely on the grill.

For the chicken:
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (preferably organic), tenders reserved for another use
For the chile oil:
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 3-4 dried New Mexico or Anaheim chiles
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar, or to taste
Brine the chicken:

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups boiling water with the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Let cool completely. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Make the chile oil:

In a medium skillet, lightly toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind the seeds to a powder in an electric spice grinder and transfer to a medium bowl. In the same skillet, toast the chiles over medium heat, pressing on them with a spatula, until fragrant and darker in spots, about 1 minute per side. Remove the stems and seeds and grind in the spice grinder—you’ll need 3 Tbs. ground chile. Add the ground chile, cayenne, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt to the ground spices, and then stir in the oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or vinegar if necessary. Stir before using.

Grill the chicken:

Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. While the grill heats, remove the chicken from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and let sit at room temperature.

Toss the chicken with 2 Tbs. of the chile oil. Grill the chicken without moving until golden brown grill marks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the chicken and grill until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Holding your knife at an angle, cut the breasts crosswise into 1/2 -inch-thick slices and let cool to room temperature. Serve with the remaining chile oil on the side.

Make Ahead Tips

The chile oil can be made up to several hours in advance, or up to a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

The chicken can be grilled up to 6 hours in advance. Refrigerate and return to room temperature for serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : with 1 Tbs. oil; Calories (kcal): 300; Fat (g): fat g 20; Fat Calories (kcal): 180; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3; Protein (g): protein g 27; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 2; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 300; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 75; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Just outstanding. Not only did this recipe teach me the benefits of brining chicken breast meat (previously, I've only brined turkey and pork)but the chile oil was awesome. I did it in my vitamix using pre-ground spices (because I already had them) and a little less oil than called for, and I thought it was one of the best sauces I've ever had.

This chile oil is amazing. I went out and got a grinder, so I could make this recipe (and have been wanting one anyway) and it was worth it. Very quick to make the oil if you have a grinder, and a unique delicious taste. Wasn't sure about the caraway, but it blended in nicely. I halved the oil since I was cooking for two, but put in 1 T of vinegar. I think I had plenty of oil for four and I was generous with it, drizzling on everything since it was so good. Will definitely make again, I think I may make a potato salad with the leftover oil.

This recipe is even good when done indoors in a grill pan. The chili oil is also great for dunking the pitas in, I made my own. Another winner from Ms. De Serio.

I did the whole Splendor in the Grass menu for lunch. I rated each recipe separately. For the chile oil I just scooped two tablespoons of Pataks Hot Curry Paste in a bowl and added a splash of red wine vinegar & whisked in olive oil. Way easier and it tasted excellent. Don't skip the brine it keeps the chicken super moist.

I so seldom see a magazine menu that I want to make in its entirety, but everything on the "Splendor in the Grass" menu looks terrific. I plan to make the entire menu this weekend. I am puzzled, though, about what wine to serve with this menu. I'm thinking a red would work well with the red chile oil, but don't want to overwhelm the chicken. And this is a picnic, so I want a fun, frivolous summer wine. Any ideas out there?

this recipe is a keeper. the chicken was exceptionally moist coming off the grill and the chili oil gave off a gorgeous brick-red glow. it looked exactly like the photo. (making the chili oil is VERY easy.)

I made these for a weekend cookout and they were great. The chile oil really set it apart from other chicken recipes.

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