Sweet meets tart and savory: Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

by Terry B on August 10, 2011

Grilled chicken breasts get a flavor boost with a simple, jam-based sauce. Recipe below.

I read somewhere recently that chicken growers are having trouble marketing chicken parts that aren’t skinless, boneless breasts. And it’s not because chicken breasts are more convenient to cook, or that chicken thighs and legs are more fatty than breast meat. It’s that skinless, boneless chicken breasts don’t have bones and therefore seem less like they came from an animal and are therefore somehow less icky.

Seriously? If you’re going to eat meat, own up to it. You can pretend all you want, but that boneless, skinless bit of animal protein was just as much a part of a living chicken as a bone-in thigh or drumstick.

If you’re not ready to give up eating meat (I know I’m not), but you want to feel better about doing so, there are a number of things you can do. You can shop the farmers markets, where the farmers can—and cheerfully will, often at great length—tell you about the healthy, humane, pasture-fed, free-range lives their animals lead. You can shop the new breed of butcher shops such as The Butcher & Larder, where the butchers only deal with small, local farmers, often the ones you see at the farmers markets. And increasingly, you can shop certain supermarket chains. Whole Foods is perhaps the most notable chain, but not the only one, where you can find meats labeled free-range, organic or grass-fed (or all of the above).

Of course, for chains to be able to carry sustainably, humanely raised meats, they need suppliers who can produce at chain volume. A couple of years ago, I wrote about Just BARE Chicken, all natural, minimally processed chicken raised cage-free by independent, local family farmers in the upper Midwest. And while their products are still primarily available in that region, they continue to expand—and to prove that best practices farming can be done on a large scale.

Now Just BARE Chicken is broadening its definition of sustainability and taking a close look at the environmental effects of its operation. They worked with the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank, on a product life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas inventory, measuring greenhouse gas emissions of everything from production of raw material inputs like feed and bedding to packaging and leftovers. They became the first US poultry brand to be Carbon Trust certified, signifying their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. And they’re working with Renewable Choice Energy to purchase renewable energy certificates; their purchases are used to support further development of clean energy facilities.

But we were talking about chicken breasts. Sustainably raised or not, they present a challenge in the kitchen. By giving up their skin and bones, they also give up a certain amount of flavor. So tricks like grilling them to give them some smokiness or adding a lively sauce can really help. For this dish, I did both. For the sauce, I started with some of the homemade strawberry jalapeño jam from last week’s grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, then added some balsamic vinegar for a nice, tart tang and some fresh sage. You can use any jam that suits your fancy (apricot would be delicious, I’m sure), but if it doesn’t pack some heat on its own, add a little cayenne pepper. The spicy kick is a nice touch.

Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Sauce
Serves 4

4  boneless skinless chicken breast halves
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, divided
1/4 cup strawberry jam (I used my homemade jam)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Remove the chicken from the fridge about 1/2 hour before you’re ready to grill, to let it come to room temperature. I usually do this just before firing up the charcoal in the chimney starter. Meanwhile, make the strawberry balsamic vinegar sauce. Combine jam, balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the fresh sage in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until completely mixed.

Just before you’re ready to grill, pat the chicken breasts dry with paper toweling and brush with olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides and sprinkle with remaining sage, gently pressing it into the chicken to help it stick.

Lightly oil the hot grill and the cook the chicken breasts, starting with what would have been the skin side down, for about 5 minutes, with the grill closed. Turn the breasts and cook for an additional three minutes or so with the grill closed, until a quick read thermometer registers 165ºF. Transfer chicken to a platter, tent loosely with foil and let it rest about 5 minutes before serving. Plate individual breast halves and spoon the strawberry sauce over them. Serve.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

kiarina August 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Ottimo questo pollo! Io ne vado matta! Cucinato così dev’essere strepitoso! Complimenti!

Anita August 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Every blog needs a crabby follower – today I shall take that role.

I will be SO glad when summer comes to an end and the profusion of “GRILL! GRILL! GRILL!” recipes comes to an end. Well, except for the inevitable “grilling in January” offerings.

I don’t have a grill. Where I live, I’m not allowed to grill. And even before I moved to where I may not grill, I didn’t grill. I like cooking indoors. Always! And I’ve felt like a red-headed stepchild ever since those in the Midwest have dug out of their snowdrifts – oh, April or so? Don’t people cook indoors anymore? Harumph.

Now that the rant is over – the sauce looks interesting. I think I will try that – on some PAN-FRIED chicken breasts! And the photo reminded me that I love carrot/bean combos, and that I haven’t had one in some time. Time to saute the carrots!

Terry B August 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Grazie, Kiarina!

Hi, crabby Anita! Thanks for taking that role today. I’m usually with you about the grilling thing. Even though we do have a grill, often I’m in the mood to say summer be damned and just braise and roast stuff all year long. I’m sure this will be great over pan-fried chicken breasts—and perhaps even better over pork chops. Pork particularly plays well with sweet, fruity sauces.

altadenahiker August 11, 2011 at 1:55 am

Well done, Anita — so to speak.

Terry, very true. It’s no favor to the animals if we put a wall between us and what we eat. I’ll never, ever eat supermarket meat again, though will probably succumb to humanely raised and humanely slaughtered animals.

love cooking August 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

I love chicken breast with no bone no skin, just because it is so convenient to eat. Peanut butter for the sauce should be nice too. :)

evi August 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm

don’t look at me! I’m all about chicken thighs!

myFudo August 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

Grilled chicken with strawberry sauce what a combination. I can imagine the lovely taste it has… so mouth watering.

mjskit August 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Well, I just love chicken – light and dark meat. I do have to admit, I like my thighs grilled (sorry Anita!), but the boneless chicken breast I always pan sear. This strawberry balsamic sauce sounds WONDERFUL for pan-seared chicken breast! Thanks Terry!

Terry B August 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Altadenahiker—Supermarkets are starting to pay more attention to consumers wanting humanely raised meats. Factory farmed stuff probably won’t ever completely go away, but increasingly, I think we’ll see better options being available.

Love Cooking—When writing this piece, I remembered an old friend of ours who would never pick up meat to eat it. Whatever he couldn’t get at with knife and fork got left behind. That just made me sad. One of the great eating pleasures to me is those last little bites gnawed off the bone (only at home, of course, and not when company is involved).

Evi, you crack me up!

Thanks, myFudo!

mjskit—I think pan seared would be perfect.

Takeaways UK August 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Sauce ! Seems an Interesting combo. Thanks for sharing.

Chicken Breasts August 30, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Nicely written. The dish looks and sounds delicious. Short, simple, elegant. Can’t prepare it without the jam, so I’m off to read about grilling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

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