Coffee, both grounds and brewed, are well known in the rubbing and marinating world. Coffee boosts other flavors and lends its own earthy, rich flavor. I went looking for a coffee marinade for some chicken, but everything I found contained a lot of ingredients, and lot of tomato (nothing against tomatoes, but it wasn’t the flavor profile I was going for). So, of course, I just made my own up. I was aiming for simple, but rich and robust caramelized grilled chicken. I hypothesized that adding honey would combat any trace bitterness from the coffee, would itself be enhanced by the presence of the coffee, and would help caramelize the skin of the chicken. The theory was proved and we dined on juicy chicken with crispy skin that tasted of honey with an essence of coffee.
Here’s what you’ll need and how it goes down:
4-6 bone-in chicken thighs
3 cups brewed coffee, cooled slightly*
3 TBSP honey
1 tsp kosher salt
*I recommend making strong coffee for this. I used a French press, but you could certainly brew in a regular coffee pot. Do NOT use instant coffee. As for temperature, the coffee doesn’t have to be completely cool, but shouldn’t be piping hot. Brew and let set for about 10 minutes and you’ll be fine.
In your marinating vessel, whisk the slightly cooled coffee, honey and salt together. Add chicken, meaty side down. Cover and refrigerate. That’s it, folks.
Let’s talk timing. My chicken marinated overnight (24 hours) because it was convenient – I prepared it Sunday evening, went to work Monday, came home later than usual, and threw it on the grill with little fuss or prep. However, marinating for just 2 hours will have the same basic effect. Meat has a threshold for penetration by and absorption of flavors, which is pretty much tapped at 2 hours. All that to say, marinate for at least 2 hours, but embrace the convenience of prepping the day before or morning of so all you have to do is “heat and eat.”
Pull from the marinade and grill until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
I served this with roasted okra, the recipe for which you may find here.