Cilantro Chicken with California Avocado and Pickled Tomato Salsa

by Matt on May 5, 2009

Cilantro Chicken

The photo above comes from yours truly and the California Avocado Commission. I’m blessed to work with them on photo assignments, shooting amazing recipes and eating beautiful California avocados until I burst (well, I wait until they leave the studio before I make a pig of myself, actually).  This recipes was created by  Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Ciudad, a client I’ve worked with several times and that I adore (Hi Peter and Leah!).  You see? It’s one big delicious circle.

There’s something to be said about being in the presence of people who know their stuff and love their work. It’s contagious and I’ve learned more about avocados this past year than I ever thought possible.  And when Mary Sue and Susan are involved you know you’re in for a treat. So after checking with the powers-that-be (i.e. the Ad Agency!) I’m happy to be sharing this recipe and photo with you.

When you’re on the set working there’s really not as much eating and snacking as you think there is. Food Stylists will have your head on a platter if you mess with their food (I’ve had my hand slapped and received about 12 spankings this past year alone) but for some reason I had a hard time photographing this recipe. It had that savory, juicy look to it and an aroma that was heavenly and I felt like jumping into the plate. It’s all about the avocados and salsa here, made with a combination of spices that conjure up Asian, Latin and Indian influences. If you’ve ever make Mary Sue & Susan’s recipes you’ll notice they are multi-layered with globally-inspired flavors. The salsa here is a perfect example. I took a bit of it after the shoot and I found it remarkably at home on top of eggs but you could use the salsa recipe for just about anything. Of course you’ll need to slice up more avocados each time you want to enjoy it but I don’t really have a problem with that. Perhaps I should. I sometimes think I eat too many avocados. Oh what am I saying? They’re good for you. Enough said.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. It’s completely appropriate for Cinco De Mayo as long as you do NOT  forget the beer.

Cilantro Chicken with California Avocado and Pickled Tomato Salsa recipe courtesy Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger and the California Avocado Commission.

4 (6 oz.) boneless chicken thighs or breasts, with skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ Cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
4 scallions, trimmed
Pickled Tomato Salsa (recipe below)
2 ripe Fresh California Avocados, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 Cups cooked brown basmati rice

1. In a shallow, non-reactive dish, season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Combine olive oil, lime juice, cilantro and cumin in a small bowl. Brush mixture on scallions and pour remainder over chicken, tossing to evenly coat. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Preheat broiler or grill. Beginning with skin side toward the heat source, broil or grill chicken until just cooked through, about 12 minutes per side for thighs and about 9 minutes per side for breasts. Grill or broil scallions about 2 minutes per side.
3. Toss Pickled Tomato Salsa with diced avocados and reserve until chicken is cooked.
4. To serve, arrange grilled chicken over a bed of basmati rice. Mound avocado salsa mixture on top of chicken. Garnish with grilled scallions. Serve immediately.

Pickled Tomato Salsa

1 Pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in quarters
½ bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 Serrano chiles, with seeds, thinly sliced in rounds
½ Cup white vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne
½ tsp turmeric
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with scallions and chiles.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar to a boil. Add brown sugar and salt, and cook until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and reserve.
3. Measure ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cracked peppercorns, cumin, cayenne and turmeric onto a plate and place near stove. In another medium saucepan, heat oil over moderate heat until just smoking. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until aromas are released, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar mixture. Immediately pour over reserved tomato mixture. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours or several days.
4. Before serving, remove tomatoes from juices, roughly chop, and return to pickling liquid.

Note: To peel tomatoes, remove the cores and score an X on the underside. Blanch for 15 seconds in boiling water and immediately plunge into iced water to prevent continued cooking. Peel with a paring knife.

Matt’s P.S.: In light of all the Ethics Chat happening in the Food Blogging World I must tell you that this is not a paid posting nor did I receive any compensation from any parties mentioned above. I just happen to like them and California growers. So there.