This simple recipe proves you can create a romantic dinner any night of the week. If your idea of a romantic evening at home includes spending less time in the kitchen than you do getting ready for your date, then this date night chicken recipe is for you. This chicken and polenta recipe can go from raw, wholesome ingredients to a complete meal in just 45 minutes.
Why this should be your go-to date night chicken recipe
You don’t think a simple grilled chicken recipe sounds sexy? That’s true. Plain chicken is not a sexy food. But the thing about this quick, easy grilled chicken breast recipe is that when all the components come together, this is a dish packed with nutrients to improve your sexual health, not to mention a few aphrodisiacs that are linked with seduction.
Now, although chicken isn’t sexy, it is a good source of lean protein. You’ll need that for a sustained night of red, hot lovin’! Then there’s the goat’s milk cheese. A touch of goat cheese gives the char on the vegetables a balance of acid and sweetness, not to mention the sensory pleasure of cool and creamy against the warm vegetables. And by the way, cheese is an aphrodisiac. It’s also linked with improving mouth health, which will make you and your date that much more kissable.
But that’s not all this tasty grilled chicken recipe has to offer. There are also date night benefits to the aphrodisiac herbs like basil. And then of course there’s the wine. I’m hoping that you’ll not only cook with it but also enjoy the rest of the bottle as a sensual prelude to whatever good fortunes your night might bring.
How to make a simple chicken marinade
Boneless skinless chicken breasts are a blank canvas for building flavor. In other words, they’re boring. But you can fix that with ease with this secret to the easiest chicken marinade ever. It’s wine.
Why use wine as a quick grilled chicken marinade?
Marinating chicken in white wine will tenderize the meat, since wine is acidic. It also imparts a subtle but pleasing flavor while adding moisture. Not only that but wine makes a fat-free, healthy marinade for chicken. Best of all, as I pointed out earlier, you can enjoy the rest of the wine with dinner.
What kind of wine should you use?
You need to marinate your chicken in a wine that you would drink. It doesn’t have to be an expensive wine. You can probably find a perfectly pleasant choice in the $10 range, (possibly less if you shop at Trader Joe’s). But if you don’t think the wine is good enough to drink, you don’t want to cook with it either! If you don’t believe me, marinade two batches of chicken, side-by-side, one in the stuff sold in the grocery store as cooking wine and one bottle of an easy-drinking white wine you like. Not only will you be able to tell the difference but you’ll find that one is remarkably tastier than the other. So don’t skimp.
Want to know more about cooking with white wines? Wine Enthusiast offers an in-depth exploration into the kinds of wine to use in cooking and how the wine influences the dish. It’s a good read if you enjoy exploring the topic of cooking with wine.
Remember to marinate your chicken in advance
Although this is a quick grilled chicken marinade, you do have to remember to do it in advance. The chicken will need to marinate for a minimum of 1/2 hour but I prefer to let it sit for 3-4 hours, turning once about halfway through. If you know you’re going to be pressed for time, you can put the chicken in the wine in the morning and leave it to marinate all day.
The trick to a great creamy polenta
I have two tricks to making great polenta and they both might surprise you. You can make polenta with any kind of cornmeal. But for the best flavor, with hints of the grain’s natural sweetness and texture that’s more than just mush, you should try to find stone-ground cornmeal.
Stone ground cornmeal retains the hull of the grain, which gives it interesting elements of texture when cooked. Not only do I find this texture more desirable than that of fine cornmeal but I also find it easier to make. Stovetop cornmeal has a reputation as a dish that must be stirred consistently or you risk lumps. Not so with this recipe using stone ground cornmeal. About three minutes of steady stirring then the occasional whisk is all it takes to get a smooth porridge. If you aren’t sure where to buy stone ground cornmeal, (I buy mine from a mill), you can check online for Bob’s Red Mill coarse-grind cornmeal.
The second trick I use is to make my polenta with half milk and half water. If you are Italian, you might be shuddering at the thought. (Traditional polenta is made with water, not dairy.) And you are welcome to make this polenta dish with water. But because this is an otherwise lean dish, I like the creamy richness milk brings to the porridge to balance the simplicity of the lean chicken and grilled vegetables.
If you want to make vegan polenta
I realize this recipe is for a chicken dish but you could easily modify the polenta and grilled vegetables to make a vegetarian or vegan dish. I don’t recommend replacing the milk with additional water. But what I do recommend is replacing it with hemp or soy milk. (I find that nut milks make the final corn porridge too sweet.)
Tips for a memorable meal
This healthy grilled chicken recipe is pretty flexible. If you prefer chicken thighs to white meat, by all means, switch the cut. Just remember that dark meat takes slightly longer to cook.
As for the veggies, I’ve suggested my favorite combination of vegetables below because I love the contrast of textures and colors. But you can use whatever vegetables are available and in season.
And if you need an easy dessert recipe to go with your date-night chicken, try these blondies for grownups.
Grilled Chicken with Creamy Polenta and Grilled Vegetables
- 4 4-oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup light white wine such as Riesling
- pinch salt and white pepper
- 2 cups 1 or 2% milk
- 2 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup stone ground cornmeal (see notes in introduction)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 4 cups vegetables for grilling (recommended: a combination of zucchini, carrots, Japanese eggplant, spring onions and asparagus)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped (recommended: a combination of basil, chives, parsley, thyme and/or tarragon)
- 2 oz Chevre (soft goat cheese) crumbled
- salt and pepper to taste
- Marinate the chicken in the white wine for a minimum of 1/2 hour, up to overnight. (Keep refrigerated.)
For the polenta:
- Combine the milk and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the salt and whisk in the cornmeal. Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes to prevent lumps. Turn temperature down and simmer partially covered, whisking occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until polenta is thick, smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and whisk in the lemon zest before serving.
- While the polenta is cooking, heat grill on medium-high. Prepare vegetables for grilling, cutting zucchini, carrots and eggplant lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Trim ends on asparagus and spring onions and leave whole. Toss vegetables in the olive oil with the fresh herbs to coat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Season it on all sides with salt before cooking.
- Before grilling the chicken, ensure that your grill surface is clean then preheat to medium (about 10 minutes for a gas grill).
- Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, turning once. (You can check for doneness by pressing on the thickest part of the breast. If it feels firm, the chicken is done.) Remove from heat and allow the chicken to rest before cutting while you grill the vegetables.
- Arrange the vegetables on the grill and cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly charred, turning once. (Spring onions and asparagus may cook in less time.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with goat cheese before serving.
- After the chicken has rested for at least 5 minutes, cut into slices against the grain.
- Divide hot polenta between four bowls. Top each with 1/4 of the vegetables and slices of the chicken.
A note on the provided nutrition informationThe nutrition information provided has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator and is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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