Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grilled Chicken, Bacon Baked Potato and Beer Braised Cabbage

I was watching the national weather the other day and I realized that spring has not sprung everywhere. CNN was reporting snow in the mountain states and many ski resorts are doing great business. My friends in New England and my family in Washington DC were reporting fairly cold temperatures still. Here in Florida though, the temperatures have been in the upper 70’s for weeks and our spring is in full swing. As a young man, this weather turns a man’s interest to the pursuit of young ladies but approaching middle age, my grill has become more appealing. Now I don’t want to sound cynical, because I tell Lisa how much hotter I find her each day, but my mental capacity has expanded to include more than one narrow range of thoughts in the spring.
I seem to go in phases with my grill but in the past few months, she has become ever more important to me. Recently, I grilled up some chicken that was out of this world and made a couple of sides that we must talk about. Now I want to take credit for the potatoes that we’re going to explore, but I must admit, it came from elsewhere. I don’t recall exactly where I saw this recipe but, no matter, it is not completely original. The bacon slats came from either a TV show or magazine, but the ricotta and horseradish were completely mine. I remembered seeing the potatoes cut with slats in them allowing slices of bacon to be slid between. Baking these off (wrapped in foil for 45 minutes) allows the bacon to flavor the whole potato and create a silky and luxurious texture. Broiling the potatoes (removed from foil) in the last 2-3 minutes of their cooking crisps up the bacon bits sticking out and using a Yukon Gold potato means that natural butteriness is present throughout. Then, I stepped things up a bit by adding a bit of horseradish to some ricotta and making a bed to sit the potato in. This worked. That mild ricotta cheese flavor infused with the horseradish goes just exquisitely with the bacon flavor. Aside from salt and pepper, 4 ingredients. YUM!!!!

The other side dish was a bit of beer braised red cabbage and I have come to decide that this is going to be a serious staple in our house. I loved it and would eat it over and over. Slowly cooking this veggie produces a pleasantly sweet flavor that calls for remaking. I began by sautéing a bit of red cabbage with some butter. Once a bit soft, I added a good beer (Stella Artois), brought that to a boil then reduced the heat to low. After about 40 minutes, most of the liquid was gone leaving a great concentration of flavor. A last bit of butter then serve. It’s just that simple.
I have decided that there is really no way to sum up in a brief article how to perfectly grill a piece of chicken (or any meat for that matter). There e are a lot of factors to consider. How hot is the grill? How close is the meat to the heat? Do you want to smoke? Do you want to grill? Do you want to add a bit of barbeque sauce? … Do you see what I’m saying? Very tough. The only real grilling rule for chicken I can think to tell you is this: It takes a bit of practice to cook a whole chicken on a grill so that it is perfectly cooked through but not burned on the outside. For this bird, I cut it in two and grill each half separately. I think the key is to keep the bird over indirect heat for most of the cooking so that it gets cooked through. At the end, I give it a few more minutes over the direct coals to finish off the skin.
So here you have the final product. Now normally, I go through the motions to write out the steps of each recipe but in this case, I think the article along with the photos are self explanatory. Like the theme that runs through most of my writing, there are very few hard fast rules. If you want to use wine to braise the cabbage, that’d be delicious. Add a little garlic too. Try these potatoes though. They were really exceptional. You could melt a bit of your favorite cheese at the end, too.
I love spring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Lou, Sounds awesome! I'm gonna try the potatoes and the cabbage next week. As for grilling the whole chicken, I have to say that the most successful Jake and I have found is to do a beer butt chicken over indirect heat (we use charcoal and split the coals to each side of the grill). If you use a chicken with a "pop-out"timer...you can't go wrong! Kathi