To make Cajun or blackened chicken for four, you will need:
• 4 or 8 chicken breasts, the number depending on the size of your diners
To make the home-made Cajun rub:
• 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
• 1 tablespoon white pepper
• 1 tablespoon ground allspice
• 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon ground paprika
• The zest of a lemon
• A handfull of fresh thyme
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Canola or sunflower oil on demand
More accurately known as blackened chicken, this dramatic meal was invented in the 1970s by a Louisiana chef, ul Prudhomme. And no, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Cajun cooking or Cajun culture despite the name.
There are many tall stories about how this extraordinary dish came about. But the most important aspects about this recipe is its ease of preparation, dramatic appearance and magnificent, over the top taste.
Fillet the chicken breasts, discarding the skin and bone. With a rolling pin or meat tenderising mallet, flatten the fillets to a uniform 10mm or so. This allows uniform cooking time, always a blessing to the punctilious cook.
Alternatively, don’t hammer them flat. In my view this results in a juicier fillet. Next, prepare the rub. The ingredients themselves are no big deal in terms of cost. The amounts here are more than you actually need for one application but in the wild rush to get things done in the standard male-run kitchen, a little bit too much is always better than just enough.
Start with the two fresh constituents of the rub: the zest and the thyme. The zest is the thin, aromatic outer layer of the lemon peel. Obtain this with a dedicated zesting tool or alternatively with an ultra sharp paring knife or a very fine grater. Collect the zest and chop it finely. Do the same with the fresh thyme.
Combine all the ingredients of the rub in a bowl and mix together. Lay the filleted chicken breasts on a work surface and brush them with a little canola or sunflower oil. With your hands rub the mixture into and over the whole chicken breast. In this unique case, too much is just enough. Quite a lot will fall off during the cooking.
Heat a dry cast iron grill pan for 10 minutes at least. You want a seriously hot surface for the next kitchen drama. When ready, drop the breasts onto the ultra hot surface for 60 seconds per side, turning once. Expect a great deal of smoke.
Remove immediately and reserve.Stage two is a far gentler process that takes place in the oven, preheated to 180°C. Let the seared and blackened breasts roast for 8 to 12 minutes or as long as it takes for clear juices to run when pierced with a skewer.
Serve with buttery mashed potato or a green salad. Even better, serve with traditional Louisiana “dirty rice”. A quick, completely phoney version goes like this: chop and fry bacon with some finely chopped spring onion and a handful or so of minced beef. Mix this with a couple of cups of boiled white rice and a tablespoon of soya sauce. What a blast! – David Basckin