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photos by Henry McDaniel
recipe by Chef Mike Drury
Picture yourself in a beautiful setting . . .
For many of us, that imagined place is a tropical island with friendly palm trees, sun-warmed sand, and cool blue water lapping at our toes. That delicious image might well include the taste of Island Grilled Chicken. Influenced by the local produce, and multi-cultural flavors that distinguish Caribbean cuisine, this flavorful dish features marinated chicken breasts seared on a grill, and served with coconut rice under a sweet and savory blanket of tropical salsa. It's no accident that in true Caribbean tradition, the presentation is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.
Bath Beach, Barbados
The chicken breasts are marinated in pineapple juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, white wine vinegar and granualted Turbinado brown sugar. While soy is not indigenous to the Caribbean, we've added it to provide an earthy balance to the marinade, setting the stage for a delicious caramelized coating when grilled.
The salsa is a delicious blend of pineapple, papaya, mango, sweet bell peppers, and red onion, dressed in tangy citrus juices with a sprinkling of spices. In fact, if you study the history of the Caribbean you'll find that both citrus and sugar cane were introduced by the early the British, French and Dutch settlers. Pineapples found there way to the Islands by way of the East Indian trade and commerce routes. The scotch bonnet pepper, originally from Jamaica and widely now distributed throughout the Caribbean, is known for its fiery flavor. In this recipe we use sweet bell peppers, native to Central and South America, and introduced to the Caribbean by the Spanish and British, which are much more suited to the American palate.
Young sugar cane field

As legend has it, mangoes were taken from a French ship seized as a prize of war by the British, and introduced to the Islands. The variety of coconuts now common to the Caribbean actually comes from as far away as India - traveling by ocean currents and carried by ships. Now a staple throughout the entire Caribbean, rice was abundantly cultivated by natives on the island of Trinidad and constituted the island's main commerce.

The original staples of the Caribbean, those of the Carib, Arawak, and Taino tribes, included fish, meats, cassava, guava and papaya. It is interesting to note that what we commonly think of as iconic Caribbean flavors, pineapples, bananas, coconuts, are all in fact imports from other cultures.

The whole dish is very simple, especially if you have everything measured, prepped and ready to assemble in advance. The French term, mise en place, "put in place," widely used in professional kitchens, refers to the preparation and arrangement of ingredients required for cooking meal, and is also equally effective at home. Prep and portion your ingredients in advance. Then finalize the dish in front of your guests, blending together cooking and entertainment! At a dinner party, your guests will enjoy the show, and at home, involve you can involve your family for a fun cooking lesson.
Prep and portion your ingrediants in advance. Then finalize the dish in front of your guests for the sheer entertainment value.
The first step is to measure out all of the ingredients that will be used in the marinade. Next, chop all of the fresh fruits and vegetables for the for the salsa. Portioning the ingredients into separate bowls creates a visual center of attention, and makes the final stages of preparation much easier.
Once your guests have arrived, its time to blend your marinade, mix the salsa and let them stand at room temperature for about twenty minutes. This boosts the flavor of both and gives you a chance to share a glass of wine with your dinner companions.
Then, place the chicken into the marinade, allowing them soak for fifteen to thirty minutes. (Tip: pre-portioned, vacuum packed chicken breasts are an excellent shortcut on busy weeknights.) Now you've got plenty of time to refresh your guests' drinks and mingle.

Bring the rice to a boil and fire up the grill. Once the rice is about halfway cooked, go ahead and pull the chicken from the marinade, shake lightly, and toss on the hot grill. (Tip: a well-cleaned, lightly oiled, and properly heated grill will keep your food from sticking to the grates.)

Everything comes together in just a few minutes, and before you know it, its time serve, sit down and enjoy. This fun and entertaining dish to prepare in front of people, looks complicated, but is really simple. Don't worry, the secret's safe with us!

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