The Culinary Enthusiast’s birthday dinner didn’t consist of only dessert, even though that’s what’s had all the attention so far. In my view, if you’re going to have a chocolate espresso cheesecake for dessert, you need something light, vibrant and healthy for dinner first.
So, the prelude to decadence had three flavourful, light components. The first was lemon-roasted chicken.
I made a bright and colourful mango corn salsa to top the chicken. The mango was the main component, its sweetness tempered by the other ingredients. My intention was to grill the corn before slicing off the kernels, which would have added the flavour and colour of caramelization to the dish, but unfortunately our barbeque tank was empty. So, I just boiled the corn for five minutes. It was still tasty, although I think grilled would have been better. Minced red onion contributed colour, and I tamed its bite by soaking it first in cold water. A finely chopped radish added more colour and zing. Creamy, lemon-doused avocado provided richness, a citrus high note and yet another textural contrast. The dressing was simple as anything, and chopped cilantro finished off the salsa and added to its tropical feel. We really enjoyed this salsa, and I’ll be making it again.
The side dish was a simple salad of fennel and orange. The anise flavour of the fennel went well with the chicken and the salsa, and the oranges added a citrusy boost to the dinner plates. I’ve written about this recipe earlier, here.
The Culinary Enthusiast enjoyed his birthday dinner, but I think the best thing about it might have been that it left lots of room for dessert!
I don’t dare call this a recipe, just a quick and easy way to prepare chicken. I put two chicken breasts (with bone and skin, for extra flavour) in a baking dish, squeezed on the juice of half a lemon and tossed the lemon into the pan. Then I drizzled on some olive oil, sprinkled some freshly ground pepper and salt, and roasted for about 35 minutes at 375º (until the chicken felt done and the juices ran clear). Time depends, of course, on the size of the chicken breasts, and the characteristics of your oven. Usually I add fresh herbs to this dish, but given the salsa I was serving it with, I didn’t think they were necessary.
Mango Corn Salsa
This is one of those dishes that doesn’t really require a recipe; it will probably be a bit different each time I make it according to what’s on hand and how the fancy strikes me. But here’s how I made it last week, as a reference point.
- 1 small mango, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- a small chunk of red onion, finely chopped and soaked in cold water for 10 or 15 minutes and then drained
- 1 radish, finely chopped
- kernels from 1 cob of corn, boiled or grilled
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- small avocado, chopped
- juice of half a lemon
- freshly ground black pepper
- handful cilantro, chopped
Combine the mango, onion, radish, corn, vinegar and olive oil in a small mixing bowl and stir well. Put the chopped avocado in a small dish, squeeze the lemon juice over it and stir to ensure all the avocado pieces are coated in the juice (this prevents browning of the avocado). Add to the rest of the salsa ingredients, adding pepper to taste. Finally, stir in the chopped cilantro.
And voila, you have a sweet and piquant topping for chicken or pork, or a simple side dish for many other meals!