Recently we were trying to make a quick fix to a simple chicken salad of a coffee shop and the very thing that I was trying to get in the heads of all the cooks was that when cooking: color equals flavor.
This is very simple to explain because when you cook anything above the boiling point of water, you will be starting to get what in chemistry is called “The Maillard Reaction”.
A simple and quick way to explain this reaction is to watch closely any kind of food that has residual sugars and amino acids like meat, onions or bread. When exposed to high temperatures -around 154ºC- this phenomenon presents and leads to the creation of about 200 different components!… …this explains the enhanced flavor.
Think of an oriental bun cooked under steam and a french baguette with a nice golden crust, which one has a more complex taste? Not that one is better than the other but one of them will have a deeper and more complex flavor thanks to the Maillard Reaction.
All the geeky stuff aside, the very point of writing this post is to make you notice that a very nice tool to have in your kitchen is a grill. No matter if you want to cook meat, vegetables or anything else, you will get a flavorful meal. What a grill does is that it lets the temperature rise above the boiling point because all the liquids are drained and set aside from the food, leading to the Maillard Reaction.
In the case of a simple piece of chicken breast, or better yet, duck for a casual salad, the use of the grill and a previous marinade will lead to a very healthy and nice moment. Try marinating with olive oil, fine slices of italian garlic, salt, pepper, mustard seeds and some herbs like fennel, thyme and rosemary; a simplest but classic mix that won’t fail.
At the very first moment when the chicken touches the grill, you will get a nice fire and the best smoke you can get!