Citrus-Marinated Chicken

Certainly, it’s hard to beat burgers and steaks on the grill. But if you hardly give a second thought to chicken, you don’t know what you’re missing. The same is true for wild birds such as pheasant, grouse or partridge.

And if you think that store-bought marinade mixes can’t stand up to homemade ones, you’re also off-base.

The grilled pheasant and sharptail breasts we had the other night, flavored with a Baja Citrus Marinade from McCormick, definitely brought home both points.

The birds were from last fall’s hunting season and had been in the freezer since then. But there was no freezer burn on them because they were stored in vacuum-sealed bags.

And while I normally like to make my own marinade, the McCormick mix, a tangy Mexican-style blend of citrus, garlic, chili pepper and cilantro, would be hard to beat.( It’s one of 16 mixes that the spice company markets.)

I marinated the birds for about two hours before tossing them on the grill (four minutes per side). And along with some grilled vegetables and a nice tossed salad (complete with lettuce, parsley and kale from the garden), it was one of the best meals I’ve had so far this summer.

Here’s the basic marinade recipe that comes with the mix, as well as one that is enhanced with orange and lime juice.

Baja Citrus Marinade
1 package McCormick Grill Mates Citrus Baja Marinade
¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 pounds salmon, seafood or chicken
Combine marinade mix with oil, water and vinegar in glass dish or large plastic bag.
Add meat, turning to coat all sides. Marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes, or longer for extra flavor.
Grill, broil, or bake until done, basting with remaining marinade halfway through cooking, if desired. Discard any leftover marinade.
Yield: ½ cup.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 10 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no protein, 310 milligrams sodium, 1 gram carbohydrates, no fiber, 1 gram sugar.

Citrus-Marinated Chicken
1 package McCormick Grill Mates Baja Citrus Marinade
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lime or orange peel
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Mix marinade mix, orange juice, oil, lime or orange peel, lime juice and cilantro in small bowl. Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add marinade; turn to coat well.
Refrigerate 15 minutes or longer for extra flavor. Remove chicken from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade.
Broil or grill over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through, turning frequently.
Note: If you’re short on time, a 15-minute marination will still give zesty flavor to the chicken breasts. For maximum flavor, marinate up to 4 hours.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 214 calories: 10 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 72 milligrams cholesterol, 342 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber, 27 grams protein.