March 15, 2011

Caribbean Lime Chicken, v. 1.0: A Work in Progress

I've been experimenting with a new recipe.  I was more or less going for a Caribbean version of Chicken Piccata:  Sauteed chicken breasts with Caribbean spices and a lime sauce.  I'm not all the way there yet, but I think the idea still has some promise.   Meanwhile, while I consider what to do differently, I'll share my first attempt.

I developed a pretty basic recipe to start with, one in which chicken cutlets were seasoned, dredged in flour and sauteed, after which a pan sauce was made to serve atop the chicken.  Wanting a Caribbean feel to the dish, I decided to season the chicken with two key Caribbean spices - allspice and cayenne pepper - as well as the usual salt and pepper.   Green onions and hot peppers are another common component of Caribbean recipes, but I didn't want the dish to be horribly hot, so I used a jalapeno in place of the more typically Caribbean habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers.  Finally, I used slices of fresh lime, lime juice, chicken broth and butter to try to make a sauce similar to that for Chicken Piccata, but using lime in place of lemon.  I also decided to toss in some Malibu coconut rum, to add a bit more Caribbean flavor.

My starter recipe in hand, I gave it a shot.  I served the chicken with some egg noodles and asparagus.  The result was... well, it wasn't completely horrible, but it wasn't very good, either.  

The first mistake was the allspice.  It works great in spice rubs for grilling, but here it tasted bitter and sort of muddy.   Perhaps that is a function of sauteing it, but whatever the reason, it was definitely not good.  The lime sauce also wasn't very good.  As opposed to the bold lemony flavor one gets with Chicken Piccata, the lime flavor was pretty subdued.  An acid tartness was about all that remained of the lime flavor, in fact.  The rum and coconut flavors were indiscernible. 

So, it's back to the drawing board for this recipe.  I plan to give the basic idea another try some time, but I'll probably have to rework it a fair bit.   I'll definitely dump the allspice.  It simply did not work in this recipe, at all.  I'm not sure where I want to get the heat from, but I'm leaning in flavor of the non-Caribbean, but also relatively unobtrusive, idea of using some red pepper flakes in place of the chilis.   I'll almost certainly boost the amount of rum (probably to 1/4 cup) and reduce the amount of chicken broth (to perhaps 1/2 cup), and I think I'll drop the faux-Piccata aspects and ditch the lime slices in favor of lime zest.  I am also considering stirring in the lime juice at the end, when the sauce has been removed from the heat.

I'll report back after my next try.  Meanwhile, perhaps a reader will want to try some of my ideas for changes - or some of his or her own - and see if they can make this dish work. 

Caribbean Lime Chicken

yield = 3 servings

3              boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded
                into 1/4-inch thick cutlets
                freshly-ground black pepper, table salt, allspice and
                cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/4           cup all-purpose flour
3              tablespoons vegetable oil
1              jalapeno, seeded and minced
4              green onions, white and green parts separated, both
                thinly sliced
1              teaspoon minced garlic
1              cup low-sodium chicken broth
2              tablespoons coconut-flavored rum
1              lime, sliced into 1/4-inch thick half-moons,
                ends and seeds discarded
1/4           cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2           teaspoon granulated sugar
3              tablespoons unsalted butter

Dry the chicken cutlets with paper towels, then sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, and lightly with allspice and cayenne.  Add the flour to a large, shallow dish or pie plate.  Dredge each cutlet in the flour on both sides, shaking off excess flour, then set aside.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  When shimmering, add the chicken cutlets and cook until browned (about 4 minutes), then flip and cook another 3 minutes or until browned.  Transfer cutlets to a warmed platter and cover with foil.  Pour off most of the fat from the pan, then return to heat.

Add the jalapeno and the white part of the green onions and stir-fry two minutes, then add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth and use it to deglaze the skillet, then add rum and lime slices and cook until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.

Stir in the lime juice, sugar and any accumulated chicken juices.  Reduce heat to low and whisk in the butter.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken cutlets, garnish with the green parts of the green onions.  Serve.

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