We set out to create a fresh, bright chicken salad inspired by the flavours of Mexico.
A simple tequila-lime mixture boosted the chicken’s flavour both in a quick marinade before cooking and, when cooked down with some orange juice, as a reduced sauce drizzled over the chicken after cooking. Grilled avocados gave the salad more smoky depth.
We cooked the chicken over the hotter part of the grill to get a good char while cooking the more delicate avocados at the same time on the cooler side. To bring the salad together, we created a bright, tangy vinaigrette by combining lime juice and olive oil with cayenne and honey for well-rounded flavour.
GRILLED TEQUILA CHICKEN WITH ORANGE, AVOCADO AND PEPITA SALAD
Start to finish: 1 hour
Chef’s Note: Ripe but firm avocados are critical for successful grilling. If your avocados are overripe, skip seasoning and grilling and simply peel and slice the avocados before assembling the salad.
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons lime juice (3 limes)
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 oranges, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ripe but firm avocados, halved and pitted
6 ounces (6 cups) watercress, chopped
1/3 cup pepitas, toasted
1 shallot, sliced thin
Whisk tequila, water, 3 tablespoons lime juice, garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt together in bowl until salt is dissolved. Transfer 1/2 cup marinade to small saucepan. Pour remaining marinade into 1-gallon zipper-lock bag, add chicken, and toss to coat. Press out as much air as possible, seal bag, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, flipping bag occasionally.
Let oranges drain in colander set over large bowl, reserving juice. In second large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup oil, honey, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons lime juice together; set aside for salad.
Before grilling, brush avocado halves with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Remove chicken from marinade, let excess marinade drip off, and transfer to plate.
‚Äî For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour two-thirds evenly over half of grill, then pour remaining coals over other half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
‚Äî For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to medium.
Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken on hotter side of grill. Cook (covered if using gas), turning as needed, until chicken is nicely charred and registers 160 F, 8 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, place avocados cut side down on cooler side of grill and cook until lightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer chicken and avocados to cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.
Add drained orange juice to reserved marinade in saucepan, bring to simmer over medium-high heat, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk dressing to recombine, then add watercress, pepitas, shallots, and drained oranges and toss gently to coat; transfer to platter. Peel grilled avocado, slice thin, and lay on top of salad. Slice chicken on bias into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, lay on top of salad, and drizzle with reduced marinade. Serve.