Sunday, June 1, 2008

A new chicken recipe? Nope. Just Grilled

Even chicken sometimes deserves a close up

It’s just a chicken. The whole planet eats it. There are about a gazillion ways to cook it. None of them are wrong as long as it tastes good to you. So when I opened the freezer this morning during a typical perusing of what will end up being dinner, I noticed a whole chicken in the back. I bought it at Costco a couple of weeks ago in a pack of two. The first ended up being one of my famous (at least to my family it’s famous) chicken salad chickens. So there this frozen bird was and not looking particularly inviting. I mean, it’s just a chicken. For reasons not completely clear, I thought I should defrost it for later. Out it came. OK then. Fine. I’ll make a chicken.

Now how to prepare this bird. At first I thought I’d break it down and fry it southern style. That’s something I haven’t done in years and the challenge of not screwing that up was intriguing. In fact, I recently asked an old friend for her recipe. I should spend some time chatting about the Long family sometime. Great people. Judith Anna made the best fried chicken I had ever tasted and even though I haven’t tasted it in over 20 years, I vividly recall her perfectly crusted skin with moist, juicy chicken beneath. I recently caught up with Judith by phone after many years. She found me through the blog. When she returned my email asking for the recipe, I was shocked at the simplicity. It just goes to show that attention to detail in the cooking process is far more important than a long list of ingredients.

Unfortunately, during my kitchen tour, I realized I would need to go get some more flour. Combine that with the fact that Lisa has been pestering about healthier cooking, and I decided deep frying was out (although I made a goat cheese risotto that was NOT a low fat addition). Then I saw the grill through the kitchen window. Grilled chicken. Yum. Grilling chicken is just as challenging as frying especially on a charcoal grill because there is virtually no temperature control. There is a very fine line between perfectly cooked chicken skin with a moist center and a black, dry, barely recognizable chunk of bird. While I think I have this process down now, I have many a nasty tale in getting here.

Fast forward to the afternoon. Chicken is thawed. In barbarian but money saving fashion, I broke down my own chicken. I love my kitchen scissors when it comes to getting the backbone out of a bird. To the best of my knowledge, the only controversy in cutting up a chicken, if you could find a controversy in cutting up a chicken, is whether or not to leave the legs and thighs together or cut them apart. For me I like them together. Looks cooler. But, if I were feeding more folks I guess I’d break them down so that there were more pieces.

Now, I would love to tell you about my homemade rub but I didn’t make one. I used Rendezvous dry rub I picked up at their restaurant in Memphis a couple of months ago (you can order it form the link yourself). A generous coating all over then a bit of a rest on the counter. In the meantime, I fired up the grill. Part one of the trick to getting the perfect grilled chicken is to concentrate your coals to one side of the grill. That way you can put the bird on the other side so it doesn’t sit directly over the heat source. So after the coals had been sitting about 30 minutes it was time for the fowl. Bird on, lid down, walk away. 20 minutes later, flip and walk away again. 15 minutes later, done. Obviously, this timing can vary based on your grill. If you have a meat thermometer, you’re shooting for 165 degrees. I couldn’t find mine which did make me a touch nervous but what could I do. I got lucky because it turned out perfectly, I thought.

I used this risotto recipe from an earlier post to serve on the side except I didn’t have the almonds and I used goat cheese instead of blue cheese. What a huge change in taste with only a small ingredient change. I loved it, a lot -probably more than the blue cheese but its close.

I also roasted some lovely tiny tomatoes just to add color to the dish. A little salt, pepper and olive oil and they went on the grill just as the chicken was finished. Beware that the olive oil WILL cause a bit of a flame as it drips in the coals.

The finished product

Well I hope this message leaves my reading friends and family less fearful of grilling a chicken. There seems to be no fear in dropping a $30 steak on the grill but there is often some hesitancy in putting a $6 bird over the coals. I hate to see us miss out on the fabulous flavor. After all, its just a chicken.


Anonymous said...

I've also been wanting that fried chicken, but I remember that it requires an actual deep fat fryer and I don't have one. Despite that fact that Scots fry pretty much anything, there's a real dearth of proper Southern fried chicken here!

Laura said...

I hope this comment doesn't disappoint, but I can actually
taste the tomatoes from the main picture! Love roasted tomatoes--Yum!