It's that time of year where Tony and I find ourselves experimenting with dishes that showcase locally grown ingredient as we strive to come up with a dozen or more recipes for the third annual Banquet in a Field, a farm-to-table dinner event held in August at Peterson Farms Seed to celebrate the bounty of North Dakota agriculture.
If the response we received from our readers is any indication, last week's recipe for Barnhardt Black Bean and Rice Summer Salad is definitely a strong contender for a spot on the menu. Several of you requested a main course recipe to accompany the salad, and this week's Grilled Chicken with Honey Lemon Garlic Sauce is a perfect fit.
Why? Well, to start, this main course is light and healthy, making it a great complement for the hearty and filling black beans and rice. Plus, it showcases honey, of which North Dakota is the leading producer in the nation.
Ease of preparation is our next consideration, and grilling is a quick and easy method for cooking, which offers a fairly low-maintenance clean-up afterwards. This honey lemon garlic sauce goes well with a variety of grilled meats including chicken, beef and pork, and it's good with seafood as well, particularly grilled shrimp.
I love that it's a finishing sauce and is applied to the meat after it's been cooked, which means I can prepare it while the meat is grilling. The sauce can be served directly on the meat, on the side, or in a dish for dipping. From start to finish, this main course can easily be prepared in under 30 minutes.
Our recipe is based on one that we found in "The Barbecue Bible" by Steven Raichlen, which we have modified to suit our tastes. We've played with the ingredients and amounts over the years, but we've never changed the secret ingredient: Asian fish sauce.
This may seem like an unusual flavor builder to use in a sauce for grilled meats, and even more unusual for my Lost Italian to embrace it, but upon examination of this ingredient it isn't such a stretch. Fish sauce is commonly used in Thai cuisine, which was the inspiration for the original recipe, and it is a simple blend of anchovies, salt, sugar and water.
Our recipe has been altered to reflect a more Italian flavor profile by adding fresh parsley and basil, but we have kept the fish sauce since anchovies are also very common in Sicilian cuisine. I have come to embrace the use of anchovies as a way to build flavor and love how their delightful, briny saltiness can brighten up a dish with nary a hint of fishiness.
We use two serrano peppers, de-seeded, and six garlic cloves, but their heat is mellowed considerably by the addition of honey and fresh lemon juice.
We like to pour the sauce directly on top of the meat as soon as it comes off the grill, and then let it sit for about five minutes before eating.
Even though this sauce is salty and savory, the rich warmth of honey really shines through in its flavor profile. But is it strong enough to make it a contender for the featured honey dish at this year's Banquet in a Field in August? We'll be playing with honey a bit more this summer, and will have to wait and see.
Until then, happy grilling!
Grilled Chicken with Honey Lemon Garlic Sauce
Serves: 4 (2 cutlets per person)
For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless breasts of chicken, sliced in half lengthwise
Sprinkle each chicken cutlet with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides, then drizzle all over with olive oil.
Grill over direct, high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes on both sides, until opaque white in center and the juices run clear. For accuracy, use a meat thermometer and stop cooking once an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached.
Remove from grill and immediately top with Honey Lemon Garlic Sauce (recipe below). Cover lightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
For the sauce:
¼ cup honey, or more to taste
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup Asian fish sauce, or more to taste
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt if needed, as well as more fish sauce and honey if desired.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.