Mexican Poultry Recipe: Citrus Chicken with Orange Cilantro Salsa

By Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Helene Siegel, Cesare Casella, Jack Bishop, Tom Lacalamita, Heather Dismore, Martin Yan, Dede Wilson, Joan H. Moravek, Kristin Eddy

This recipe involves a special method for cooking chicken breast, one of the least flavorful cuts of meat. First you boost flavor with a strong marinade, and then you moisten the grilled meat some more with a sprightly salsa. The natural sugar in the orange juice caramelizes and adds the perfect sweetness. This choice is great for your summer barbecues.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/genious2000de]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/genious2000de

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 35 minutes for Red Roasted Tomato Salsa, plus 6 hours for marinating

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 morita chile or 3 arbol chiles or 1 chipotle

3⁄4 cup Red Roasted Tomato Salsa (see the following recipe)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

6 whole chicken breasts, boneless with skin on

Orange Cilantro Salsa (see the following recipe)

  1. To make the marinade, combine the orange juice, lime juice, and chile in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

    Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the chile is plump, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and pour into a blender. Add the Red Roasted Tomato Salsa, oil, and salt and puree until smooth.

  2. Wash the chicken breasts and place them in a large stainless steel or plastic container. Pour on the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

  3. Preheat the grill or broiler until medium-hot.

  4. Grill the chicken breasts, skin side down on the grill, or skin side up in the broiler, about 3 minutes. Then turn and cook the other side, moving away from direct heat. Keep turning the chicken every minute or two to prevent it from blackening or sticking.

  5. Total cooking time is about 12 minutes for small breasts and about 20 minutes for larger breasts. If checking meat with a thermometer, the internal temperature should be 175 degrees F.

  6. Remove breasts from the heat for about 5 minutes.

  7. Serve over Red Rice and Refried Black Beansand top with the Orange Cilantro Salsa.

Grilling chicken breasts calls for careful technique. With any citrus marinade, you need to be watchful not to burn the meat because the sugars in the juice caramelize quickly on the grill. The trick is to stay nearby and keep turning the chicken frequently, never blackening the skin or meat.

Keep the skin on for flavor, moisture, and a little insurance against charring. If guests prefer skinless chicken, just remove it before serving.

Red Roasted Tomato Salsa

Roasting the tomatoes until blackened gives this smooth red sauce its distinctive Mexican flavor.

Special tool: Blender or food processor

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Yield: 1 quart

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cored

6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup tomato juice

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Place the tomatoes, garlic, chiles, and onion on a foil-lined baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil. Broil 6 to 8 inches from the flame for about 12 minutes, turning frequently with tongs, until evenly charred.

  3. Transfer the vegetables and any accumulated juices to the blender or food processor. Add the tomato juice, salt, and pepper. Puree, in batches if necessary, until smooth.

  4. Pour into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature for table salsa, or use warm as an ingredient in rice or chilaquiles. Store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or in the freezer for 2 weeks.

For the lazy cook’s version of this salsa, you can use canned Roma tomatoes and totally skip the broiling part. The salsa still tastes delicious, though definitely not roasted.

Orange Cilantro Salsa

A refreshing fruit and herb salsa, such as this one, is also great over grilled salmon. Make the salsa no more than a day ahead to really enjoy the freshness.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1-1⁄2 to 2 cups

4 oranges or other citrus fruit, peeled and sectioned

1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems, coarsely chopped (1⁄2 cup)

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, freshly julienned

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

  1. Combine the oranges, cilantro, chiles, onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

  2. Mix well and set aside or chill until serving time.