When we were on vacation last month, every day at the resort, the kitchen staff would wheel a big grill out by the pool. Before long, the unmistakable aroma of meat on an open flame filled the air around the pool. If you weren’t hungry by then, after the smell swirled around for 15 or 20 minutes, your stomach started growling. The first day we were there, we sampled both the flank steak and the chicken thighs that came off the grill. The steak was quickly abandoned for the remainer of the week in favor of those grilled thighs. We could have had lunch at the restaurant, but every day we looked forward to the poolside grill.
I don’t know what exactly the chicken was marinated in and seasoned with, but we vowed to try and recreate it at home. First off, chicken thighs are probably my favorite cut of chicken. They have way more flavor than bland, dry chicken breasts. Sometimes the best dishes are the ones that are so simple. At home, we started with an amber ale. I would have used something like Modelo Negra or Dos Equis Amber, if I’d had it, but I didn’t. And those beers are lagers, not ales, but I used what I had on hand. I added a big pile of minced garlic, a pinch of kosher salt and some pepper, a handful of chopped cilantro, and some lime juice. Going by memory and taste, that is what seemed like the chicken was marinated in.
The final product was pretty good, but not quite as good as we had at the resort.
Next time I try to make these, I’ll get skin-on thighs. That skin crisps up so nice on a grill, and is irresistible.
Mexican Grilled Chicken (makes 2 dinner-servings)
- About .75 pound of whole chicken thighs
- 1 12-ounce can of amber lager such as Dos Equis
- juice and zest of one lime
- pinch of kosher salt and pepper
- heaping tablespoon of minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- handful of cilantro, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
At least a few hours ahead (can be done the day before), mix the beer, lime juice and zest, salt, pepper, garlic and cilantro in a large dish with a lid. Add the thighs and leave 2 hours to overnight. When you’re ready to grill, heat your grill to high for 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat down to low, and place the thighs, skin side up, on a spot on the grill not directly above the flame. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes and turn carefully. Grill skin-side down for around 4 minutes. It’s best to test the chicken with a meat thermometer rather than cutting it open, but sometimes you gotta do that. Chicken should be grilled to 160 degrees. Measure the temp beside (not up against a bone) in the thickest part of the meat. Disclaimer, here… I usually grill my chicken to 150 or so because it will continue cooking once you let it rest a few minutes. And, I think if I actually left it on the grill to get to 160, it would be too dry. But the EXPERTS recommend grilling chicken to 160. I like to live on the edge. YOLO.
I served my chicken with some super easy “Chipotle” rice. I made 2 servings of basmati rice according to the directions, but right before it was totally ready, I added about 2 Tb of lime juice, lime zest, some chopped cilantro, a little bit of minced garlic and a pinch of kosher salt, and let it continue cooking for another few minutes until it was completely absorbed. You could easily make this with brown rice.
This wasn’t as good as what we had at the resort, but maybe it’s because this wasn’t the view when I was eating.
And, I wasn’t having it with a margarita. That really would make all the difference in the taste, I believe.