Bromelain, the group of enzymes in fresh pineapple, is excellent at breaking down the connective tissues in thick, fibrous chicken breasts. In this simple marinade, grated pineapple completely alters the texture of the breast meat, resulting in something that’s akin to luscious dark meat. Briefly marinating here is important: Leave it too long and the chicken will fall apart during cooking, becoming shreddy and a little gluey. Fifteen minutes is the sweet spot. The accompanying pineapple salsa is a bright topping for the juicy morsels of aromatic chicken and rice.
Pineapple-marinated Chicken breasts
• 3 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 cup diced fresh pineapple (1/2-inch chunks)
• 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
• 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons fresh pineapple, finely grated, including accumulated juices
• 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
• Cooked white rice, for serving
In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic powder, ground cayenne and black pepper.
Transfer 1 tablespoon of this marinade mixture to a separate medium bowl and add the diced pineapple, red onion and cilantro. This is your salsa; toss until well mixed and set aside.
Add the grated pineapple and its juices to the marinade mixture in the large bowl, then add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes (and no longer).
Once the chicken is done marinating, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.
Add the chicken pieces, leaving any marinade behind, in a single layer so that they don’t touch and let cook until the bottoms are browned, 2-3 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and no longer pink on the inside, 4-5 minutes more.
Serve the chicken over rice and top with the reserved pineapple salsa.
Total time: 30 minutes, serves 4.