When I invite friends over for an outdoor barbecue, my intentions are of course to enjoy witty banter and good company, but also more selfishly to avoid that dreaded mountain of mucked up and crusted over pans that inevitably accumulate at breakneck speed when having a conventional ‘dinner party.’
A stranger to that dish mountain I am not; though when cooking for just the boy and she-who-must-avenge-every-toilet-paper-roll-ever I usually manage very well to keep my kitchen tracks clean and tidy, a strange phenomenon occurs when other people come into the equation, and a quick glance over from the dinner table frighteningly reveals a scene much less calm and serene Ina Garten, much more the set of that awfully annoying 80′s comedian Gallagher who has some sort of unexplained vendetta towards fruit.
If you’re anything like me, after a long night of prepping, cooking, laughing, and relaxing, the last thing you want to do is break out the Bar Keepers’s Friend, and there is no better way to ruin the next day than throwing cleaning-caution to the wind, and deciding that “honey, let’s just clean it up tomorrow.”
However when the party moves from inside to outside and dinner is charred up and cooked on a grill instead of spattering and sputtering all over the impossible to clean gas stovetop, suddenly that last cocktail is a lot less stressful. Sure there is the sensation of that lovely warm late-August breeze rounding your shoulder-tops, the gentle flicker of the hummingbirds wings as they flutter past the table, and the dusky orange sky that has taken to settling in right around eight o’clock….but the best part of late Summer barbecues?
These chicken skewers, though I went ahead and made enough for 6 when it was just the three of us, were the embodiment of easy Summer living. I whizzed together the ingredients for the marinade – tangy lime juice, silky coconut milk, a bit of jalapeno and some creamy peanut butter – and tossed it, along with the chicken, into a bag. From there all I had to do was forget about it, and found myself actually jealous of the chicken spending its hours in a cool and creamy bath while I flitted around town doing some obligatory weekly errands and mopped sweat from my heat-stricken brow.
Apricots are in high season here in Colorado, and locally we can find some of the best. After snatching up a few from the farmers market I headed home, ready to put together what would turn out to be a fantastically easy meal. The fresh apricots are threaded onto skewers alongside the tender marinated chicken, and then set onto a hot grill to sear and cook their way to slightly charred perfection.
The chicken, having been immersed in the salty sweet marinade, receives dark and flavorful grill marks with ease, and the natural sugars in the apricots caramelize up and darken perfectly.
A drizzle with a bit of reserved marinade and a sprinkling of peanuts adds a bit of extra flavor and crunch, and a few final feathery bits of cilantro gussy up what is already a very pretty dish. The chicken was so moist and tender, and each of the singular ingredients in the marinade could be tasted – something I feel is not always the case.
With a super simple salad of baby lettuces and red wine vinaigrette on the side, this was the perfect Summertime meal – with hardly any muss, fuss, or mess. Sure I had to wipe out the food processor bowl….but that in comparison to chipping away at sauce-slicked pans and gluey baking sheets?
I’ll make that switch any day.
Chicken & Apricot Skewers with Coconut, Peanut, Lime, and Cilantro
From Bon Appetit, August 2012
I made very few changes to this dish other than amping the amount of cilantro called for to 1/2 cup (from 1/4 cup). You could use full fat coconut milk, but the thinner consistency of the light type works well here, and keeps things a bit healthier.
These skewers are summery and easy, and would be great for a BBQ as you can marinate the chicken ahead of time and assemble the skewers as your guests arrive.
If you can’t find fresh apricots, I’d venture to guess that smaller sized peaches would work well here too.
3/4 cup canned light unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 teaspoons (packed) light brown sugar
2 garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus additional sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped jalapeño (about 1 large; with seeds for more heat)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into twenty-four 1″ chunks
12 firm ripe small apricots, halved, pitted
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Lime wedges, for serving
tools: twenty-four 6″ bamboo skewers (soak in water for 1 hour before using to prevent them from catching fire), and a food processor or blender
First, make the marinade. Purée the first 6 ingredients (the coconut milk through the garlic cloves) and 3/4 tsp. salt in a blender or food processor until it is very smooth. Add the cilantro leaves and jalapeño and blend briefly to combine (you should still see flecks of green). Transfer 1/2 cup of the marinade to a small bowl; cover and chill for serving.
Place the remaining marinade in a resealable plastic bag and add the chicken. Seal the bag, forcing out as much air as possible, and turn the bag over and around to coat the chicken well. Chill the marinating chicken in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight – the longer it marinates, the more flavorful the chicken will become.
Heat a gas grill to high, or build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill. Using 2 skewers parallel to each other, thread 1 piece of chicken onto the skewers, then 1 apricot half, and repeat with 1 more chicken piece and 1 more apricot half (using 2 skewers helps hold the meat and fruit together, preventing them from twirling and spinning around when skewers are turned on the grill). Repeat this process with remaining skewers, chicken, and apricots for a total of 12, each holding 2 pieces of chicken and 2 apricot halves. Season the skewers with salt and pepper, and brush the apricots with some of the marinade from bag; discard remaining marinade.
Grill skewers on one side until chicken is well browned, 3—4 minutes. Turn and grill until other side is well browned, 3—4 minutes longer. Move to a cooler part of grill. Cover grill and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 2 more minutes (take care to watch that the apricots do not burn or char too much). Transfer the cooked skewers to a serving platter, drizzle with the reserved marinade, and sprinkle with the cilantro sprigs and peanuts.
Serve the skewers immediately along with lime wedges for squeezing.