I recently made dinner for my boyfriend’s parents – Sue and Mike. A lot was riding on this dinner. Sue had never eally had anyone cook for her before, so that was a big deal. And since I’m the girl her son is seriously involved with, she needed to know first-hand that I could feed him properly.
Aside from that, it was her birthday.
Something tragic happened a long time ago that made her dread the very month of her birthday, let alone the actual day. This dinner needed to make everything better. No pressure, right? Let us not mention that both
she and Mike have entirely different dietary needs.
It took about two weeks to finally decide on a dinner menu. The original meal idea was some kind of chicken with fresh-made rolls, a green something-or-other, and mashed sweet potatoes. For this recipe, I’m offering you a tried-and-true hash brown recipe, which, in hindsight, I should have made instead.
Grilled Salsa Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash Browns are easy enough to make, and pretty quick too, after prep. If you’re making this meal, it’s best to start in the morning (or the night before) so that the Salsa can set properly and so that the Chicken has time to marinate. But even that is easy.
Start with the Salsa:
3 medium tomatoes, diced into ¼ -inch cubes
½ med. heat pepper, sliced thinly
½ mango, diced into ¼ -inch cubes
2-3 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
3 Tbsps finely chopped onions/scallions/chives/shallots (you pick)
3 shakes salt
4 shakes pepper
Mix it all together with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Cover loosely with a lid, or a little less than loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate or keep in cool area until ready to cook dinner.
Similarly, mix balsamic vinegar and raspberry vinaigrette (3 Raspberry :1 Balsamic) in a bowl big enough to fit all your boneless-skinless chicken breasts (if you’re cutting a piece or two smaller for smaller mouths, do it before marinating for best taste). Put the breasts in the bowl, making sure to cover entirely each layer with the marinade before adding another layer. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Hours later, when you’re ready to really get things started, but about an hour before you want to serve dinner, throw 3 sweet potatoes and 2 white potatoes into a pot and let them soak for about 20-25 minutes. You
can shorten this to 10 minutes by turning the heat to medium underneath. This draws the starch out.
Chop the potatoes into ¼ -inch pieces. If you’ve heated them, stick them in the freezer for about 3 minutes to cool them off first. In a sauté pan, heat some extra virgin olive oil. Mince about 2 Tbsps Onion and ½ clove of garlic and add them to the oil. Give it a couple seconds, and then add the potatoes. Stir it all together.
Once you’ve got everything in the pan, turn on your grill, and bring out the chicken. I have a one-temperature electric grill, so adjust yours accordingly (med-high should be fine). Put the chicken on and leave them alone
for 3-4 minutes. (You may want to do a test-chicken: just put one on and adjust the temperature up or down depending on your grill. If you want to do this, it would be best to try it while the potatoes are in the pot, and when it’s finished, chop it up and offer it as a teaser to everyone).
While the chickens’ a-cookin’, stir the potatoes, wooden or plastic spoon. When the potatoes seem to be saturated with the oil, pull the pan onto a flat surface, and, in the pan, manually mash them. Return to heat.
At about 3-4 minutes, turn the chicken over. Stir your Potatoes. Wait another 3-4 minutes and turn the chicken again. Stir Potatoes. 3-4 minutes, turn again. Stir. 3-4 last minutes, turn again. Make sure the chicken is
finished (not pink inside, clear juice, and a thermometer reading of 165º). Turn off the grill, turn off the potatoes, and plate them both. Cover the chicken breast with the salsa. Put some kind of fresh vegetable and/or a salad with the meal.
As for the fresh roll, my dough wouldn’t rise, so I just went to the nearby grocer and bought some fresh baked rolls. There’s no shame in that.
The end result was a tearful praising of my culinary skills (though I have no real training) and a thank you note, letting me know that Sue won’t be so sad about her birthday any more. So, I guess I did all right.
Harmony Brush is a current Lesley University graduate student living in Rochester, NY. She loves people and writing.
Image by: Carl-Fredrik Runqvist, SXC