We spent yesterday gardening, cleaning up the backyard, and puttering around outside. To reward ourselves for a job at least adequately done, we grilled.
A few weeks ago, the husband's parents made this Grilled West Indies Spice-Rubbed Chicken with the cookbook-recommended grilled banana, which was so good we had to make it ourselves. However, I find that the grilled banana can become a bit cloying, so we switched out the accompanying fruit for a far zingier Equatorial Fruit Salad with lime and jalapeño.
We walked away with five important messages about the salad from the meal:
1.) The Equatorial Fruit Salad is phenomenal. The sweet acidity of the pineapple next to the smoothness of the papaya just tastes like a tropical summer. The lime gives a further zing that plays off of the creaminess of the bananas. I was a little worried about the heat, so I put in only 2 jalapeños. However, because you seed them, the jalapeños end up not being that hot. Go ahead and put all three in.
2.) Definitely splash in some of the rum. First of all, it's rum. Second, it adds a hint more sweetness to a fruit salad that is remarkably not overly sweet.
3.) While the salad is mouthwatering--and, in its leftover status, served as a fine accompaniment to today's lunch--it is not the best counterpart to the spice-rubbed chicken. The spice-rubbed chicken does need something creamier and sweeter than this particular salad to balance the heat of the cayenne and ginger in the rub. Save this salad for another grilled meal, but certainly eat this salad. Period.
4.) Despite my earlier protestations, the grilled banana was the better counterpoint to the heat of the spice-rub.
5.) To grill the recommended banana, simply place an unpeeled banana (one for each person) on the grill and forget about it until it's black (say a couple minutes on each side). Indeed, while the skin will turn an unappetizing black, the interior of the banana will be soft, very sweet, and a little smokey. Remove the banana from the grill and unpeel. Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, cookbook writers extraordinaire, recommend brushing the banana with a little molasses and butter once you have peeled off the skin. I would say it's sweet enough without it.
Now that said, the spice-rub is well-layered, could be used on any meat (pork? Yes, please), and could be tweaked depending on what you have on hand or your palette prefers (More cumin? Why not? Out of ginger? No problem.). We served this alongside a dollop of yogurt--which counterbalances all that spice--and a helping of padron peppers* dry sauteed and then finished with a little salt and olive oil. It was a fine way to cap a productive gardening day. Ahh, summer.
*These little peppers hail from northwestern Spain. I have heard them described as a little like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time they are sweet, but occasionally, when you pop one in your mouth you get the surprise of a hot one. If you see a basket of them at your farmer's market, pick them up.
Grilled West Indies Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Equatorial Fruit Salad
Adapted from The Thrill of the Grill
For the spice rub and chicken:
3 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons allspice
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons powdered ginger
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
For the fruit salad
For the fruit salad
1 ripe banana
1 ripe mango
1 ripe papaya
6 tablespoons lime juice (about 3 limes) and additional lime juice for serving
3 diced fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded
1. Mix all of the spices for the spice rub together, rub the mixture over both sides of each chicken breast, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
2. Peel all the fruit and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine all the fruits with the lime juice and jalapenos and mix well. For a little jolt, add a splash of rum (dark is better, but light will do in a pinch).
3. Over a medium fire, grill the chicken breasts for 7-8 minutes, until well browned and heavily crusted. Turn the chicken breasts and grill for an additional 10 minutes. Check for doneness by nicking the largest breast at the fattest point: the meat should be fully opaque. Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with fruit salad and a dollop of yogurt.