This Buttermilk Grilled Chicken is a play on Buttermilk Fried Chicken, which (I don’t need to tell you) is delicious, but frying at home can be a messy ordeal. Fortunately, the same buttermilk mixture – flavored with shallots, garlic, jalapeño, paprika, cayenne and Dijon mustard – makes for incredibly tender and moist grilled chicken breasts. You’ll be amazed at how much the chicken absorbs the flavors in the marinade- it has a nice kick from the cayenne and jalapeño and a light smokiness from the paprika. Marinating chicken breasts in buttermilk tenderizes the meat and adds richness that gives a boost to a very lean cut of meat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mustard, paprika, cayenne, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Add the garlic, shallot, and jalapeño. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then add it to the bowl and toss lightly to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24.
When ready to grill, brush the grill grates lightly with olive oil. Prepare a charcoal fire with one layer of coals or for a gas grill, turn the burners to high, close the lid and heat for 10 minutes, then lower the burners to medium-high. (You can also use a grill pan on the stove over medium-high heat.)
Lift the chicken pieces from the marinade, place them on a large, flat plate, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Grill for 7-8 minutes on each side, until lightly charred on the outside and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Brush any juices that have accumulated on the platter onto the breasts, sprinkle with fresh herbs and sea salt, and serve.
Notes: While I’ve tested the cooking instructions in this recipe several times, every grill is different. The best way to test whether your chicken is cooked is to use an internal thermometer (cooked chicken should be 165 degrees) or just to cut into one piece.
For this recipe, look for small chicken breasts that are roughly the same thickness throughout. They will be more tender and will cook more evenly.
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