I used to live in Los Angeles, which has some really great street food. Among my favorite things to get on a hot day were the bags of tropical fruit sold by street vendors. The fresh, juicy fruit would come seasoned with a spicy lime salt that would add another level of delicious flavor. Those tasty bags of fruit were on my mind while I created this dish, as that combo of flavors seemed perfect for a fresh salsa to top chicken.
This easy meal requires minimal cooking time, maybe 15 minutes in front of the stove, though chopping all the fruits and vegetables takes a bit more work. I reduced the prep time by buying pre-peeled and -cut chunks of mango, which I diced down further to the size I wanted.
This recipe works well as a party dish, as you can make the salsa the day before and the chicken can marinate overnight. All you have to do the day of your event is sear the meat. If you have a barbecue planned, cook it on the grill instead of in a pan.
To save yourself a little more time, you can often find a ready-made chile-lime salt in the specialty foods section of the grocery store. But it’s not hard to make your own, and you can use the leftovers of this wonderfully flavorful blend on fruits, salads, fish, meats … basically any dish to which you’d like to add a big pop of flavor.
I wanted a really refreshing wine to pair with this dish. The spice was a key factor to consider, so I opted for New World wines that would have the fruit to balance the heat: a Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and a Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. Both worked quite well in different ways.
The Pinot Gris had notes of stone fruits, melon and lemon curd. The ripe fruit flavors worked beautifully with the fruit in the salsa, and the wine’s rounded mouthfeel nicely matched the weight and texture of the food.
On the other hand, the Sauvignon Blanc had lots of thirst-quenching citrus flavors, which enhanced the lime in the food, plus juicy papaya notes. Additionally, its light herbal accents worked well with the cilantro. As the meal continued and the heat from the chile gradually built up on our palates, the extra-crisp, refreshing quality of the Sauvignon Blanc became increasingly desirable. We reached for this wine over and over again, ultimately giving it the edge.
Pair with a refreshing, fruity white wine such as Hanna Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2017 (90 points, $20).
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time (2 hours to 24 hours)
Cooking time: 20 to 25 minutes
Total time: 50 to 55 minutes, plus marinating time (see above)
Approximate food costs: $30
1. Combine the lime zest, cayenne and 1/3 cup of salt in a bowl. This makes more seasoning mix than needed for this recipe.
Note: To store extra chile-lime salt, spread out the salt in a shallow bowl or small baking dish. Leave it out overnight to allow the lime zest to dry out completely, then store in a jar to use as desired.
2. In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the chile-lime salt, half of the lime juice (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 cup of olive oil and the garlic, then whisk together. Add the chicken breasts and toss well to coat. Marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, flipping the chicken breasts in the marinade halfway through.
3. Combine the mango, bell pepper, red onion and jalapeño in another bowl. Add the remaining lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the chile-lime salt. Toss to combine, taste and add more seasoning mix if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 20 to 30 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking. Remove from marinade. Heat a generous amount of oil in a large pan until it begins to shimmer. Add the chicken to pan. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side, until well-seared on both sides and a meat thermometer reads 160° F to 165° F. Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
5. Just before you’re ready to serve, toss the cilantro in with the mango salsa. Slice the chicken breasts against the grain. Serve topped with the salsa and additional chile-lime salt on the side. As an option, serve with tortillas of your choice on the side. Serves 4.