Food & Drink

Secret to this grilled chicken is in the sauce

Lisa McRee

Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are simply very ripe jalapeno peppers that have been dried, smoked and packed in a sauce of tomatoes, vinegar, paprika, oregano, garlic and onion.

If you’ve never cooked with them before, you'll be shocked at what a shortcut they can be for adding flavor to loads of recipes.

And to make sure those flavors, and a couple of other ones in this marinade, really travel to the deepest parts of the chicken, buttermilk is a miracle.

Cooks in the South have always used buttermilk to tenderize and moisturize fried chicken. The acid in buttermilk helps break down the protein strings, which makes the bird more tender and succulent while carrying flavorful spices and herbs into the deepest part of the meat.

This spicy version of the marinade makes this chicken just as delicious and juicy, even though it’s grilled instead of fried.

The best part is, even though this marinade takes less than 5 minutes to whirl together, the chipotles in adobo sauce make it taste far more complex. If you make it for a summer party, your guests will beg to know the secret. (Feel free to tell them it’s much more difficult than it really is.)

One for the Table is an online magazine:

Buttermilk Chipotle Grilled Chicken

5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 breasts)

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 to 1/2 cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (amount varies according to how much heat you like)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 handful fresh cilantro, stems and leaves

Zest and juice of 1 large lime

Using an immersion blender, puree the buttermilk, chipotles in adobo sauce, ground cumin, coriander, salt, cilantro, lime zest and juice.

While the marinade sits for a few minutes, cut the chicken breasts in half: You want to separate the thicker (top) part of the breasts from the thinner (lower part) so you can leave the thicker pieces on the grill to keep cooking, but pull the thinner pieces as soon as they’re done so they don’t dry out.

Toss the chicken in the marinade, making sure every piece is coated, and cover with plastic wrap. (Push down on the wrap so that everything is submerged.)

Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24. Heat a charcoal or gas grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Grill, turning, until cooked through on both sides, removing the thinner pieces first and letting the thicker pieces cook a little longer. After removing from the grill, top with a little freshly squeezed lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve with grilled vegetables.

Yield: 8 servings.