Today was our last day of school. And you know what that means: it’s grilling season.
Now here’s where I make a shameful confession…
I rarely use our grill. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever used our grill.
Sure, I use the indoor grill. I have a large cast-iron one that lays across two burners, and I use that all the time.
But that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about taking a plate of meat to the back yard, firing up the grill, standing around outside with a pair of tongs and flipping burgers or brats or chicken…perhaps, if you want to get totally stereotypical about it, while enjoying a refreshing can of beer.
Nope, not me. I’ve learned to saute, roast, fry and sweat. I’ve gotten over my fear of touching raw meat and have figured out 18 dozen ways to serve potatoes. I love eating outside, and I love the flavor of grilled meats. But I’m generally not the one grilling said meats.
Why haven’t I, historically, done the grilling myself? Well…I always pass the job off to my husband, for some reason. Isn’t that silly?
I’m sure it has something to do with the gender roles we grew up watching our own parents occupy. My mom stayed in the kitchen and made the potato salad; Dad flipped the burgers. But I’ve let so many of those traditional roles go that it seems silly to have locked into this one for so long.
Actually, many women I know delegate grilling duties to their spouses. In each case we tend to be mistresses of our own kitchens, and will gladly cook over a campfire if needed…but pull that big, intimidating metal box out of the garage and we get all standoffish.
But waiting around for the grillmaster to get home has often put dinner at the mercy of Jon’s work schedule or commute time, and I know that some days the last thing he wants to do after sitting in a car for over an hour is stand in front of a hot grill.
So today I decided, in honor of the official kickoff of summer break, that it’s time for me to stop avoiding the grill. It was time for me to step up, grab those tongs with confidence, and do an essential cooking job I’ve been avoiding far too long.
Of course, I wanted a recipe that would be simple, flavorful, hard to screw up, and deliciously family-friendly so that the kids would rave, thereby boosting my grilling confidence. So I decided to make grilled chicken marinated in ranch dressing – because what kid doesn’t like ranch?
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 large chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat. (This recipe is easy to double, triple, or quadruple, but some of my kids were away at friends’ houses today so I kept it small!)
- 1/2 cup MarzettiClassic Ranch dressing. (Marzetti sent me a few jars to use for this post, and I’d intended to use the regular ranch, but it was completely gone within a week. As you can see, this one will be gone soon enough, too. Turns out the light dressing is really good and doesn’t have that fake-y “light” taste that some lower-cal and low-fat dressing brands do. And since the ingredients are all-natural you don’t have to worry that they’ve slipped in an artificial sweetener to cut calories or anything like that.)
- Two cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- Fresh herbs – I used basil since I had some on my windowsill that desperately needed to be harvested, but feel free to add your favorite.
- Two tablespoons of lemon juice. Not pictured here because I decided to throw it in at the last minute, but I think it made a big difference!
Mix all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic zipper bag and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Then…the moment of truth.
- Place the chicken breasts on a plate.
- Set the grill to medium.
- When it heats up, use tongs to apply the chicken to the grill…and…let them cook for about 7-8 minutes per side, until juices run clear if you stab the breast with a fork.
- Return chicken to clean plate.
Seriously, it could not have been easier. This is what I was worried about all that time?
Tips from Jon, who is, as indicated, much more experienced than I:
- When grilling thick chicken breasts, close the top. That way, you’ll lock in enough heat to cook through to the center without overcooking the outside.
- To get beautiful grill marks, move the chicken to a new area of the grill when you flip it. Otherwise the pieces of chicken that stuck to the hot metal will prevent the new area from getting a nice clean sear.
- Leave it alone. Peeking, checking and moving the chicken too much is tempting but you’ll get a much better result if you just shut the top and let the chicken cook for the recommended amount of time.
The ranch-marinated chicken turned out juicy, with a subtle and very kid-friendly ranch flavor. Serve it up with some extra ranch for dipping – especially if your kids, like mine, love ranch dressing! (and again, what kid doesn’t love ranch dressing…)
And now, I’m convinced: the grill is no longer just Jon’s domain. I, too, deserve to enjoy the pleasures of outdoor cookery, and once in a while there’s no reason he can’t pull together the side dishes while I’m “manning” the tongs.