The recipe is comprised of two simple items: a chicken breast grilled with barbecue sauce and a calabacitas salad. (For those of you not from the Southwest, calabacitas is an iconic dish of zucchini, corn, and green chile. Sometimes it also includes black beans, in which case it displays all three members of the classic Native American “Three Sisters”: corn, beans, and squash planted in the same hill. The tall corn provides a stake for the beans to climb; the low-growing squash shades the ground and suppresses weeds; and the beans fix nitrogen in the soil to maintain soil fertility. The three are also nutritionally complementary.)
You could serve the two elements in a traditional plating, side by side, but slicing the chicken and putting it on top of the salad is simple enough to do and makes for a beautiful presentation. Also, it allows you to serve two people with just one plump chicken breast half.
This combination is fantastic. The sweet, spicy barbecue sauce plays beautifully off the creamy, smoky salad – though note that you can use your favorite sweet-spicy bottled sauce if you don’t have the time or energy to make your own. We ate it sitting on our backyard patio, and it couldn’t have been more perfect on a warm early-summer evening. And I’ll make a confession (promise you won’t tell?): We both licked our bowls clean.
I find grilling recipes challenging to write, because of the wide variation in equipment. “Medium” on my Weber gas grill may be quite a bit different from what you would consider “medium” in your Big Green Egg or on your apartment balcony’s little charcoal hibachi. Therefore, times and temperatures will be quite vague. There are many suggested ways to test chicken for doneness; I think anyone who cooks meat regularly should have – and use – a good thermometer. I am in love with my Thermapen. It’s made meat cookery much less anxiety-inducing, with much better and more consistent results.
Chicken with Beer BBQ Sauce over Creamy Calabacitas Salad
Serves: 4 Time: 45 to 60 minutes, mostly hands-on (plus 30-60 for homemade sauce, if using)
2 medium zucchini (about 12 oz each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 fresh poblano or New Mexico green chiles
1 red bell pepper, optional
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup Sticky, Spicy Beer Barbecue Sauce or bottled BBQ sauce
Preheat your grill until it is very hot.
Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut each half again so you have eight zucchini “planks.” Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through and charred in spots (the more char, the more smoky flavor in your salad, but don’t burn them to a crisp).
Place the chiles (and bell pepper, if using) on the grill as well and cook, turning occasionally, until most of the skin is blackened and blistered. Remove the grilled zucchini to a cutting board and the chiles to a sealed plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
Chop the cooked zucchini and place in a large bowl. Add the corn kernels. When the chiles (and/or optional bell pepper) are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove the stem and attached core, then chop the flesh and add it to the bowl.
In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, and garlic until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste, then pour over zucchini mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.
Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Place on oiled grill rack over medium heat. Let them cook a few minutes, until seared enough to easily separate from rack, then turn. Brush the cooked side with barbecue sauce. Continue to cook, turning and brushing with sauce occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or so, until done (internal temperature of 165 degrees).
Remove the chicken to a cutting board and slice across the grain into 1/2-inch slices. Portion the calabacitas salad onto four plates or wide, shallow bowls, and top with the sliced chicken. Drizzle with barbecue sauce and serve.
Follow Unfussy Epicure on Facebook!