Spice-Island Chicken with Pickled Limes

Serves 8 / Chef Paul Chappel, of Cicely’s Restaurant at the Calabash Hotel in L’anse Aux Epines on the southwestern tip of Grenada, makes this with the small limes that grow abundantly on the island. Pickling is a common preparation in tropical climates; although the fruit loses its bright green color when cooked, the spicy lime pulp greatly enhances the flavors of the rice and chicken.

Pickled Limes
6 limes, washed and cut into 6 wedges each, seeds and excessive pith removed
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 star anise
4 small chilies (jalapeño or Serrano), halved and seeded

Marinade
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground clove
1 tablespoon ground star anise
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water

8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Saffron Rice
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups long-grain rice
4-1/2 cups low-salt vegetable or chicken stock
3 strands saffron, or 1 pinch ground saffron

1. For pickled limes: Put limes in a colander placed over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Dry-roast mustard seeds and star anise in a frying pan over medium heat until they start to color. Pour into a large glass jar with lid. In the same pan, cook drained limes over moderate heat for about 10 minutes. Add chilies; cook 5–8 minutes more, then allow to cool in the pan. Add limes, chilies, and juices to jar with the mustard seeds and star anise. Shake to distribute spices. (Pickled limes can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 4–6 weeks.)

2. Mix all marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag and add chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.

3. For saffron rice: In a medium-large saucepan with lid, gently sweat onion and garlic in butter until soft. Add rice and stock. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until stock is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Add saffron, season with salt and pepper, and fluff with a fork.

4. Grill chicken until browned, 5 minutes per side; transfer to oven and cook until done, another 10–12 minutes. Serve chicken on a bed of rice with warmed pickled limes on the side.