It didn't take me long to realize that boneless, skinless chicken breasts were not designed for grilling—they dry out too easily and more often than not, end up pretty tasteless. A staple in my college cooking days, the chicken breast slowly started fading out of my life as I took to the grill more often. These days, it's nearly non-existent, save my Friday night schnitzel feasts.
So is there a time and place for grilled skinless, boneless chicken breasts? I say yes, and this blackened chicken sandwich is proof.
Blackened chicken tends to have an awesome spicy exterior with a disappointingly dry inside. I didn't want mine to suffer from that, so I chose to split the breasts horizontally and give them a brine. The flat breast slices allowed for very fast, even cooking over a heat high enough to quickly form the blackened crust, while the brine gave the chicken just enough extra moisture to avoid the dryness plague. The addition of pepper jack cheese, lettuce, spicy mayo, grilled onions, and grilled red peppers add extra moisture and crunch.
Sound like a good sandwich? Well it was! The spicy, blackened crunch with creamy cheese, sweet onions, and fresh lettuce created a combination that worked incredibly well together, proving that there's at least one thing a skinless, boneless chicken breast can do well on the grill.
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 8 ounces each
- For the brine:
- 1 quart ice cold water
- 1/8 cup kosher salt
- 1/8 cup sugar
- For the rub:
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch disks and skewered horizontally
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- Green leaf lettuce
- Sriracha mayonnaise
- 4 club rolls
- Type of fire: direct
- Grill heat: high
For the Brine: in a small, shallow bowl whisk together the the water, salt, and sugar until the solids are dissolved. Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally. Place the chicken breast slices in the brine and refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the rub. In small bowl, mix together paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Brush the chicken slices lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with the spice mixture. Flip the chicken over and repeat. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to grill.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grate. Brush onion slices lightly with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill onions and pepper, turning occasionally, until peppers are completely charred all over and onions until charred on both side and slightly softened, 5-8 minutes total. Remove from grill and place pepper in a paper or Ziploc bag and seal. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes, remove skin and slice into 1/8-inch strips. Remove skewer from onion and separate into individual rings.
Place chicken slices on grill and cook over high heat until first side is blackened, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and place slice of cheese over chicken and grill until second side is blackened and chicken is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 3 minutes. While the chicken is resting, place rolls on the grill, cut side down, and grill until lightly browned. Remove from grill, spread top side of bread with Sriracha mayonnaise and assemble sandwich with the chicken, onion rings, pepper slices, and lettuce. Serve immediately.