Blanching the basil before pureeing it helps retain its bright green color. There is enough liquid in the basil and the chicken to act effectively as a brine, infusing flavor.
Make Ahead: Because the chicken breasts are not immersed in an acidic liquid, they can endure an overnight basil bath in the refrigerator. But it is better to marinate the chicken the morning of the day you plan to serve them.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 2 1/2 cups packed basil leaves (about 3 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon (1 teaspoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, preferably airline-cut (skin-on, first wing joint attached), about 10 ounces each
Fill a small bowl with ice water and an ice cube or two. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat, then add the basil leaves and stir until they have wilted. Drain, then plunge the leaves into the ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Drain.
Have ready a large resealable plastic food storage bag.
Combine the blanched basil, salt, lemon zest, pepper and water in the bowl of a mini food processor or blender; puree until smooth. Use the puree to slather each chicken breast half on both sides. Place them in the plastic bag; seal and refrigerate for several hours or up to overnight.
Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Arrange the chicken breast halves skin side up on the indirect-heat side of the grill grate. Cover the grill (vents open) and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the interior temperature of the chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the grill lid and place the pieces skin side down over direct heat to crisp the skin and give it some char, which will take only a minute or two.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil and let the chicken rest for several minutes before serving.
From columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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