There's something exotic yet comforting about the smell and taste of ancho chile powder: It has a smoky aroma, followed by a sweet heat and mildly tart finish. In this recipe, it adds punch to our rub, which gets sweetness from light brown sugar and warm spice from coriander and cumin.
Since chicken is relatively neutral in flavor, it lends itself perfectly to the flavor-packed rub. But we'll also be using it on different cuts of pork, as well as whole vegetables such as cauliflower and corn. The charred corn relish served with it screams summer, with crunchy cucumbers and fresh herbs.
Feel free to make the relish a day or two in advance, but be sure not to add the avocado until just before you're ready to serve. As the relish sits in your refrigerator, the flavors will meld together.
Ancho-Grilled Chicken Breast with Charred Corn Relish
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus marinating and resting time
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes, plus marinating and resting time
For the Chicken:
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons lemon zest
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt, to taste
4 medium (1½ pounds) skin-on chicken breasts
For the Charred Corn Relish:
2 ears corn, husked
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup lime juice
½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 (9 ounces) avocado, pitted and diced
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Make the chicken: In a small skillet, toast the black peppercorns, coriander, cumin and mustard seeds over medium heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. With a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted spices to a coarse powder, then transfer to a small bowl. To the ground spices, mix in the brown sugar, ancho chile powder, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt. Rub the spice mix onto the skin-on chicken breasts and allow to marinate in the refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the relish: Light a grill. Grill the corn, turning often, until deeply charred, 8 minutes. Slice the kernels off the cob and set aside. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar over medium heat. Cook until it melts into an amber caramel, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar and lime juice, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the charred corn and cucumbers. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the avocado, herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while you grill the chicken.
3. Place the chicken breasts skin-sides down on the grill, and cook, flipping once, until they have reached the internal temperature of 165º, 8 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Slice the chicken breasts and divide between plates. Spoon over the relish, then serve.