Cajun Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

Thank you Jane Hornby and thank you for the gem that is What to Cook & How to Cook It!  This cookbook is crazy trendy right now - it is sold at Urban Outfitters - but for good reason!  The pictures and format in this are absolutely amazing.  To be honest, that was the only reason I initially bought this book.  The photography is just so spot on that I could not pass up owning it.

My family came over for dinner last night and I wanted to try something new for them. You should have seen me on Tuesday night - I was sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of wine in hand, surrounded by cookbooks.  I was having a terrible time trying to choose just one recipe to try.  My hope is that eventually I will make everything, but I had to be smart in my choice.  I was just about to give up and go to bed when I opened up this book one last time and chose it - Cajun Chicken with Pineapple Salsa.  Ding, ding, ding!  You are the winner!

I have never in my life cooked anything like this before.  However, I have had a similar dish before at The Firkin, an amazing restaurant in my hometown of Libertyville, IL.  I also love Cajun and Caribbean-style foods, so I had a good feeling about this one...

I made the rub and almost called it quits.  It looks rather...unappetizing, to say the least.  IGNORE THE APPEARANCE!  The end result is worth it.

My mom's response when I walked in the door with whole pineapples, "Wait a second.  Why would you actually buy whole pineapples?  I would have just bought already cut up ones."

Well Carla, that is the difference between you and me.  I had never sliced up my own pineapple, but I have always wanted to.  And...I will do it again!  Yes, it is kind of time-consuming, but I feel so much cooler walking around the grocery store with a whole pineapple rather than a dinky can of pre-cut pineapple.

I mixed up all of the fruit/vegetable ingredients and Holy Mother of Pearl!  This salsa is perhaps the more aromatic concoction that I have ever made.  The combinations, even if they seem strange, compliment each other so well.  I think, in fact I know, that I would eat this salsa by itself (I am guilty of doing so as I finished the rest of dinner).  Spoonful after spoonful.  Even throw it over a little rice for a light lunch.  DELISH!

The recipe says to broil the chicken for 12 minutes.  You could do this, and it probably would be pretty easy.  But I personally think grilling any meat - chicken, beef, turkey - is so much better and flavorful! Ultimately, chose whatever cooking method best fits your capabilities.  Ultimately, both will work.  It is simply a matter of personal preference.

NOTE: This is only the first recipe from the night...another recipe...dessert, maybe? will be hitting the web very soon!  Keep your eyes peeled for another update.

Cajun Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus optional marinating time Cooking time: 12 minutes Serves: 4

For the chicken: 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 2 cloves garlic 2 teaspoons dried thyme 2 teaspoons paprika 1 teaspoon black pepper 2 teaspoons ground allspice 1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil salt and pepper

For the salsa: 1 medium, ripe pineapple 1 small red onion 1 green chile (I used a serrano pepper) 1/2 red bell pepper 1 handful fresh cilantro 1 lime, plus more to serve in wedges, if you like

First, prepare the chicken.  Preheat the broiler... (HOLD UP - I did not broil the chicken.  I much better!)  Slash each breast three times using a sharp knife, cutting about a third of the way through the flesh.

Crush the garlic, the put it into a small bowl with the dried thyme, paprika, black pepper, allspice, and oil.  Season with salt and mix well.  Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken and down into the slashes.  The chicken can be left for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator in this marinade, if you life.  When ready to cook, put the chicken onto the rack of a broiler pan.  Broil the chicken for 12 minutes, turning it once or twice during cooking.  Again, I chose to grill the chicken instead of broiling.

While the chicken cooks, start the salsa.  Cut the ends off the pineapple.  Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthwise, then slice off the strip of hard, pale core that runs along the middle of each quarter.  Cut criss-cross lines about 1/2 inch apart across each pineapple quarter, cutting all the way down to the skin.  Then, starting with the knife about 1/2 inch away from the skin, run the knife between the flesh and the skin to release the small cubes into a large bowl.

Finely chop the onion.  Seed, then finely chop the chile and the pepper.  Add to the pineapple and mix.  Roughly chop the cilantro leaves, add to the salsa, then squeeze in the juice from the lime and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.

After 12 minutes' cooking, the chicken should be dark golden brown - almost black in places - and cooked through.  If you haven't yet finished chopping the salsa ingredients, don't worry - the chicken will benefit from resting for a while, covered with foil to keep it warm.

Serve the chicken with spoonfuls of salsa, wedges of lime, and some plain rice, if you life.  ENJOY!