Sunday, September 15, 2019

Grilled Fajita Chicken and Rice

Boneless chicken breasts, soaked in a southwestern seasoned, brown sugar brine, tossed in fajita seasonings, grilled over indirect heat and served with a southwestern seasoned rice.
Boneless chicken breasts, soaked in a southwestern seasoned, brown sugar brine, tossed in fajita seasonings, grilled over indirect heat and served with a southwestern seasoned rice.

Grilled Fajita Chicken and Rice

This is a main dish take on those well loved chicken fajitas, putting that bold fajita flavor on those ever popular, full-sized boneless, skinless chicken breast and using the classic peppers and onions to flavor a side dish of rice. Just something with familiar flavors. but a little different!

As always, the full recipe with instructions are further down the page, past the step by step photographs. Scroll or swipe down to the bottom of this post to go straight to the recipe.

Although you could technically skip the brine if you absolutely wanted to, I find that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are just so bland, that especially when you're throwing them on a grill, they need that little bit of extra flavor the salt and sugar infuse. Here I'm countering it a bit with indirect grill heat, but frankly the insurance that brining provides, also seems to help to keep the chicken more moist. I cooked the chicken on my Traeger pellet grill. If you're using a smoker or pellet grill, you're already cooking over indirect heat so you won't need to create a zone.

Here's how to make my grilled fajita chicken breasts with fajita rice. Fill a zippered gallon bag halfway with tap water, add all the marinade ingredients, seal bag and shake to mix well, then add the breasts, seal and set into a bowl. Refrigerate in the brine for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. The breasts that I had were fresh and those tend to be oversized, so I cut them in half lengthwise. Just remember to take that into account with your timing!


Combine the seasoning mix, remove 1/2 tablespoon and set aside for the rice. Drain chicken and discard marinade. In a separate zippered bag, add chicken and seasoning; shake to dust chicken all over. Let rest while you preheat grill to high, or up to 30 minutes. Turn off burners on one side of grill and cook chicken over indirect heat, turning once, about 20 minutes depending on thickness and size, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Do not overcook!


Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Cook bacon in a large, lidded skillet until crisp. Remove and set aside; once cooled, coarsely chop. To the pan drippings, add the butter, onion and bell pepper and saute, stirring often for 4 minutes. Add garlic, cook another minute. Add tomatoes, water, rice, reserved seasonings and bacon; bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.


Remove from heat, cover and set aside. Let rest for 5 minutes covered. Fluff before serving, stirring in cilantro, if using. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed.


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Recipe: Grilled Fajita Chicken and Rice

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Inactive time: 45 min
Cook time: 20 min

Total time: 1 hour 05 min
Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the Brine/Marinade:
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
For the Seasoning Mix:
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning, or to taste, optional
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
For the Rice:
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped sweet bell pepper (any combo of red, yellow, orange and/or green)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 cups instant rice
  • 1/8 cup fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, optional
Instructions

Fill a zippered gallon bag halfway with tap water, add marinade ingredients, seal bag and shake to mix well, add the breasts, seal and set into a bowl. Refrigerate in the brine for 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

Combine the seasoning mix, remove 1/2 tablespoon and set aside for the rice. Drain chicken and discard marinade. In a separate zippered bag, add chicken and seasoning; shake to dust chicken all over. Let rest while you preheat grill to high, or up to 30 minutes. Turn off burners on one side of grill and cook chicken over indirect heat, turning once, about 20 minutes depending on thickness and size, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Do not overcook!

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Cook bacon in a large, lidded skillet until crisp. Remove and set aside; once cooled, coarsely chop. To the pan drippings, add the butter, onion and bell pepper and saute, stirring often for 4 minutes. Add garlic, cook another minute. Add tomatoes, water, rice, reserved seasonings and bacon; bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover and set aside. Let rest for 5 minutes covered. Fluff before serving, stirring in cilantro, if using. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed.

Cook's Notes: May also cut breasts into tenders, and serve with warm tortillas if desired. May also pan sear or bake, if you prefer. Substitute a can of drained, diced tomatoes for the fresh. May substitute long grain rice with adjustments.

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