Friday, May 6, 2011

Grilled Chicken in Citrus Marinade

I love to cook.

I also love to share the food I cook.

This week and next week I'm sharing my dinners with my sister-in-law Maria who has a newborn.

Last night's dinner was grilled chicken in a citrus marinade.

As I was cooking, I became so disappointed at how it was turning out, dinner was almost a disaster.

Small scale, of course.

You know when you're making a meal to share with another family--how you want it to come out perfectly?

And then you feel like it's a disaster--and you want to order them a pizza instead?

I had a vision of perfectly grilled chicken with crisp, flavorful skin and juicy, moist meat.

Didn't happen.

This just goes to show you, though--don't give up.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

I went to the local Mexican market. I like that market because the butcher is really nice and helps me find good cuts.

It reminds me of Center Market, in West Covina, when I was little.

The chicken looked good, so I bought 4 leg quarters and two whole breasts.

When I saw the chicken, that's when I had the vision of making the perfectly grilled chicken with the crisp, flavorful skin and juicy, moist meat.

In my head I'm thinking--pollo asada, yum! 

When I got home, I trimmed up the leg quarters, cutting off the globs of fat and extra skin.

Then I cut the breasts in half and put the pieces into a large bowl.

For the citrus marinade, I basically made it the same way as I did for carne asada.

This time I used an electric juicer.



An orange.

Lemons too.

That's about 3 cups of mixed citrus juice.

I added one bunch of cilantro, chopped.

And four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.

1/4 large onion, sliced, goes into the bowl.

Along with a half-cup of white vinegar,

2 teaspoons cumin,

1 tablespoon black pepper,

1/2 teaspoon cayenne,

1 teaspoon paprika,

And 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Salt, too, about 2 teaspoons.

I have some parsley, rosemary and oregano growing outside, but dried ones work well too.

I also like to add thyme, but I didn't have any today.

Strip the leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop, then add to the bowl.

Then I added about a tablespoon of honey.

I think jalapeƱos make everything taste good.

But some people in my family don't like too much heat, so I take the veins and seeds out.

Best wear kitchen gloves when handling hot peppers.

The juice can really sting, especially if you touch your eyes, so be careful.

Chop them up and add to the marinade.

Stir it well so the honey is combined into the marinade.

Then pour it over the chicken in a large bowl.

I remembered I had some smoked paprika and added a tablespoon.

Mix well and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.

I'm doing great up until this point.

I started the barbecue and put the heat on the lowest setting.

It usually works really well.

I had visions of the chicken cooking slowly, the skin getting a nice golden brown, and the meat being juicy.

I should have known better.

See those flames on the sides?

I usually always take the skin off the chicken before grilling, or buy boneless, skinless chicken.

But cooking the chicken bone-in is so much tastier, so I thought I'd do it that way.


I closed the lid of the barbecue, went inside to do a few other things, and when I went outside to check on it after five minutes,


Smoke and flames were shooting out of the barbecue!


I wish I would have taken a picture.

The skin of the chicken was totally black, charred and stuck to the grill.

My heart sank.

There went my perfect dinner.

I couldn't even take the chicken off the grill, I had to run inside and get the big, heavy-duty metal spatula to scrape underneath the chicken.

Then I got to thinking...

They shouldn't eat the skin anyway. 

It's not good for you.

I took the skin off and finished cooking the chicken.

See that big chunk missing?

It stayed on the grill.


These turned out okay.

When I went inside, let them sit for ten minutes, and cut them apart, two weren't quite done, they had to go back on the grill.

That's the best breast, and when I took the skin off, removed it from the bone and sliced it, it was juicy and perfectly done.


Meanwhile, Karen called on her way home from work, we chatted for about 45 minutes, then I called Maria and chatted with her for awhile.

I'm thinking...


Disaster averted.

I'm packaging up Maria's dinner and started thinking...

Gee...I thought I bought 4 leg quarters...


I still had two leg quarters on the grill!!!

The bottoms were totally charred after being out there for over an hour!

By then I was over my vision of the perfect dinner and cut all the charred part off thinking...

My brother-in-law will totally eat these.

When my brother-in-law came over on his way home from work to pick up dinner, he was very appreciative.

It looks pretty good!


I realize that I may be a bit of a perfectionist.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the flames and smoke shooting out of the barbecue.

That was a sight to see.

Now, it's almost...funny.



Today's my mother-in-law's 88th birthday.

She was born here in the US, but her whole family moved back to Japan when she was little.

When she was in grade school, she said she was really good at throwing an iron ball.

O-Baachan was a shot putter?!

Yes, she was!

There she is, in the back row on the left, wearing the kimono.

She came to the US in her 20's to visit her sister in San Francisco,
 met and married my father-in-law, and has been here ever since.

This is my favorite photo of her.

She looks fun.

O-Baachan loves jigsaw puzzles.

She's working on a really difficult one right now.

2000 pieces.

She says,


O-Baachan and me.

 And her dog, Cha-Cha.

In Japanese culture, the 88th birthday is a milestone.

The way Beiju, or 88, is written in Japanese is also the kanji for kome--rice. Rice is an integral part of Japanese culture and symbolizes purity, goodness, wealth, and nutrition.

At Leisure Club this week, the senior citizens at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center got a package of kohaku manju to celebrate my mother-in-law's special birthday.

Kohaku manju is made for celebrations, the character 'kotobuki' is stamped onto the manju and means 'congratulations.' 

Kotobuki is also used for longevity.

Happy 88th Birthday, O-Baachan!

Big thanks to Brian Kito at Fugetsu-Do Confectionery for preparing the kohaku manju for us!

No printable recipe for this one, yet.


  1. Sorry for calling and making you forget about those other leg quarters! Whoops! :) The chicken came out GOOOOOD! Your burnt chicken would be a successful dinner at my house!

  2. We like the chicken. Toss the burnt ones to me.

    Like the photos of your mother-in-law. Can she come help me with my puzzle?

    Today is my mother-in-law's birthday, too. She's 80. We going to party up tomorrow.

  3. OMG! I cried my eyes out with laughter =)) You made my day!
    I've been following you for quite some time now, and I always enjoy every post, especially the wonderful stories about your family (great stories, great family). Thanks for sharing this with us! I'll keep following you ;)

  4. I made this recipe for supper today. My husband grilled the chicken and we were nerveous watching it... but it was a success! We loved it, delicious, crispy outside and absolutely fantastic!Im looking forward to try more of your recipes :)