Pineapple Salsa Chicken

Pineapple Salsa Chicken

Greetings, lovely and gentle readers. Forgive me as I interrupt our “Almost Fall” baking theme momentarily to bring you a delightful zingy and, may I say, healthy dinner idea. It is simple enough to make any night of the week.

Here, lean chicken breasts are both marinated in fresh pineapple and then garnished with a bright pineapple salsa at the end. This is important, however. Bromelain, the group of enzymes in fresh pineapple, is talented at breaking down the connective tissues in thick, fibrous chicken breasts.

In this simple marinade, the grated pineapple completely alters the texture of the breast meat, resulting in something that’s akin to luscious dark meat. Briefly marinating here is important: If you leave the chicken too long in the marinade, it will fall apart during cooking, becoming shreddy and not what you desire. Fifteen minutes is just right so be sure to set a timer.

Bon Appétit!   Chef Bettina

Pineapple Salsa Chicken

3 tablespoons, packed, dark brown sugar

2  tablespoons rice vinegar

1  tablespoon soy sauce

2  tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking

1  teaspoon kosher salt

1  teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne

½  teaspoon black pepper

1  cup diced fresh pineapple (small dice)

¼  cup finely diced red onion

2  tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2  tablespoons finely grated fresh pineapple, including accumulated juices

1 ½  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

Cooked white rice, for serving

Make the marinade:  In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic powder, ground cayenne and black pepper.

Make the Salsa:  Transfer 1 tablespoon of your marinade mixture to a separate medium bowl and add the diced pineapple, red onion and cilantro. This is your salsa; toss until well mixed and set aside.

Then add the grated pineapple and its juices to the marinade mixture in the large bowl, add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes (and no longer).  If you let sit in the marinade longer, the chicken will fall apart during baking.

After marinating, heat a large saute pan over medium-high and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces, leaving any marinade behind, in a single layer so that they don’t touch and let cook until the bottoms are browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and no longer pink on the inside, 4 to 5 minutes more. Always cook chicken to 145 degrees.

Serve the chicken over rice and top with the pineapple salsa.

*Bettina Tolin is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin. She has cooked in the kitchens of the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Florida. She is currently the executive chef and owner of Marcello’s overlooking the historic lighthouse in Port Isabel. Marcello’s Ocean Grille & Spirits was recently written up in Texas Monthly magazine as the new trending restaurant for dinner and brunch in the South Padre Island area.