Posts tagged the grilling edition
Posts tagged the grilling edition
Tastes Like Chicken, or, The Banality of Chicken
To prove to you that I do not write this tumblr solely to pick on Bon Appetit (but seriously, if someone from BA is reading this, do get your accessibility game in order), I am incredibly grateful for their grilled citrus chicken recipe because it is fantastic.
I have eaten so much tasteless chicken that I have developed my own theory of the banality of chicken. Too many boneless skinless chicken breasts and bad chicken Caesar salads lead us astray. We eat it, it tastes like nothing, we stop thinking about it as an ingredient that came from an animal that can taste wonderful.
But good chicken is fantastic. I am reminded of this every single Thanksgiving when we are wringing our hands to get a turkey to taste half as good as a good chicken.
And while I love the simplicity and elegance of a roast chicken, I do not always want to turn on my oven for an hour in the middle of summer.
Enter grilled chicken!
It’s simple, although not foolproof exactly. There are two difficult parts:
1. Cutting up the raw chicken. Not precisely difficult, but involves some wrestling with slimy raw meat and identifying joints underneath the slimy raw meat. But this can be conquered! Here’s a Martha Stewart slideshow explaining the process and here’s Melissa Clark going through the process in a NY Times Food Section video. Do note the amount of manhandling in the video.
I like to have both a knife and good kitchen shears for this process. We bought our kitchen shears maybe 5 years ago at Sur La Table. They weren’t very expensive but they’re sturdy and can cut through bone fairly easily.
Promise me you will save the backbone for stock, okay?
2. Managing the cooking temperature on the grill and taking the chicken off when it’s done but not overdone. Because we have a small charcoal grill, creating clear “zones” is more like a idea I keep in my head than an actual real thing I do. Sort of like in yoga when I am supposed to let the idea of grabbing my foot in a given pose enter my head when in actuality I would have to remove my foot from my leg in order to touch it from that position.
In practice, I try to pile the coals sort of one one side and then I put my hand over the grill to figure out how hot certain areas are and I just try to monitor things.
There’s a great pull to stick the meat on the hottest part of the grill and watch everything sizzle and get those blackened grill lines immediately. If you do that with chicken, the outside will burn/dry out while the inside is still raw. Be patient!
If you have a good speedy meat thermometer, bless your heart. I do not. So instead of buying more shitty meat thermometers, I’ve learned to get to know what cooked chicken feels like when you squish it. It has more resistance. Raw chicken will feel a little jelly-ish inside. Give the flesh between your thumb and fingers a little pinch while your hand is relaxed. Raw chicken feels like that. Do your best, cut up a piece to check, don’t worry too much.
Anyway, besides all that, I am a firm believer in squeezing orange slices over the chicken as it’s cooking. It adds a really lovely sweet/citrus flavor to the chicken and I think it helps keeps things moist.
Grilled Bread Salad
I started making this based on a recipe in the Bon Appetit grilling issue. It’s very good. I enjoy grilling bread quite a bit, as it turns out. I never worry if it’s under-cooked.
I make this when we’re grilling other things, by the way. When we fire up the grill, I feel a certain compulsion to throw things on it until the coals have died out. If that means we eat grilled salad, so be it.
You grill the bread, peppers, and onions, so you want to cut those up into large enough pieces that they don’t fall through the grates. If I make a small salad for the two of us, I use one pepper and one onion.
Grilled Bread Salad
Toss the cut up peppers, onions, and bread slices with a fairly significant amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill them, turning regularly, until soft and a little bit charred. I put the bread in the slightly cooler spots on the grill and the vegetables in the hotter spots. It takes a fair amount of time for the onions and peppers to cook. Maybe 10 - 12 minutes?
Cut up the grilled vegetables, tear the bread into chunks, and mix together with the cucumbers and tomatoes. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and some red wine vinegar.
I’m always looking for good opportunities for bread and oil, so I’m pleased to be able to incorporate these into an otherwise healthy salad.
We’ve got a large lake in our backyard right now, and I don’t think the dog has been fully dry since Friday, but I want to believe that there are places in this country where people are not gazing upon the water seeping into their basements and preparing their arks.
In that hopeful spirit: grilled corn. It’s so good and so easy.
Sometimes I tell you things are easy, and I mean they’re easy relatively speaking. Grilled corn is straight up easy.
I’m sure there are great benefits to elaborate corn soaking processes* and I’m missing out in some profound way, but it’s just hard to imagine when un-soaked corn is so good. So I don’t soak the corn. In fact, I don’t even fully husk the corn. I just pull off the outer layers.
Here’s where I get picky, though: I feel strongly about charcoal versus gas grills. I’m sure gas grills are convenient, but so is my broiler, and ultimately if you’re cooking on a gas grill, you’re broiling outside. That’s fine, but let’s not act like it’s real grilling.**
Finally, a note about picking corn: you don’t need to pull back all the husk to see if the corn is ripe. I was taught that you can feel the tip of the corn with your fingers— if it’s pointed, that probably means that the kernels at the end haven’t developed. If it’s rounded at the top or blunt, that means the kernels there have filled out and you’re good. Generally speaking, it’s not great to do something to fruit or vegetables in selecting them that will make the next person less likely to buy them. That includes poking or squeezing tomatoes and husking all the corn in your search for the most perfect ear.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
The corn should take about 8 - 12 minutes. I put it slightly off to the side, away from the very hottest spot in the grill.
Pull off the toughest outer layers of corn husk, leaving the thinner and lighter green inner layers. You should be able to easily feel and almost see the kernels, but they should be covered with the husk still (so don’t pull it all off). Trim off the excess silk at the end of the cob.
Add the corn to the grill. Give it a quarter turn every 2 - 3 minutes, until you see the outlines of the kernels and the husk is a bit charred. Often the husk begins to peel back a bit as I’m grilling, that’s fine. The kernels should be a deeper color (darker yellow, for instance) and look plump.
Spread with butter and salt, and enjoy.
(If your spouse grew up in the midwest among corn fields, try to avoid getting into a conversation about where the corn came from and how far out of season it is.***)
* From a 1999 New York Times article on grilled corn:
Corn grillers in Lynchburg, Tenn., have soaking down to a science. Regina Qualls, the treasurer of Metro Moore County Volunteer Fire Department treasurer, who has seen 11 years of corn-roast fund-raisers, described how the corn is soaked in salted water for 24 hours to make the ears more tender. Ice is added to the salt water every few hours to keep it from souring. The ears are then grilled over blazing-hot charcoal until the husks are as charred as cinders. When those are pulled off, the plump roasted kernels are exceptionally succulent, thanks to the salty water.
** This is one area in which I feel real superiority over my older brother, so I cling to it pretty strongly.
*** Florida, and very far. It was still delicious. We picked it up at Rosemont Market, which also has a fantastic meat counter and incredibly knowledgeable butchers.
Image: World War I poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Photo Archive. Corn - the food of the nation Serve some way every meal - appetizing, nourishing, economical by Lloyd Harrison; Harrison-Landauer Inc. Baltimore. 1918.