Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grilled Butterflied Chicken

You will see random pictures of splayed chicken in this post, in various stages of doneness, so be prepared.

My parents' grill was recently resurrected from what was a horrid, rusty, filthy grave.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  The savior was my sister, who took one look at the grill, sprinted back inside, and promptly ordered new grill grates to be shipped the next day.  Thank you sister.  (I, on the other hand, had completely avoided the grill, knowing what I was likely to find. Not a savior.)

There were some plump, good-looking chickens at the farmers' market, and we picked one up with the thought of butterflying the chicken and cooking it on the born-again grill.  I searched the internet for grilled butterflied chicken recipes, and mostly based my recipe on the one in this blog, which was adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  I liked the recipe not only because it gave directions on how long to grill a butterflied chicken, but it also called for brining the chicken beforehand.

For the chicken and brine:
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 to 4.5 pounds
  • 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
I also used this dry rub recipe from Saveur, but it isn't necessary.  If you click on the link, you'll see that the rub recipe has about 15,000 ingredients.  This is something that would automatically go in my "no" pile, except that my sister made the rub, not me. I used it, but I didn't make it. 

Pour a few cups of hot water into a container large enough to hold the chicken and at least a few inches of water above it.  Pour in the salt and sugar, and mix until the granules dissolve.  I added in a couple of bay leaves, just for kicks.  Place your chicken into the container.  I also read that you should put ice in the mixture so the temp lowers and discourages bacteria. So I did that. 

Pour in enough water (start with a gallon and go from there, depending on the size of your pot and chicken) to cover.  Then I covered the whole thing and put it in the fridge for about 4 hours.

Tip 1: you can start this process with a frozen chicken.  The brining thaws out the chicken very quickly.
Tip 2: don't quote me on this, but I wouldn't brine the chicken for more than 4-5 hours.  After that, the solution breaks down the meat too much and it may become mushy.

When you're ready to move on to the next step, heat your grill to medium high (if you have a charcoal grill, I get the impression that medium high means that you can hold your hand about 5 inches from the grill for about 4-5 seconds before your hand melts--this is why I use a gas grill).  

After brining, remove the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Discard brining solution.  Now get to butterflying that chicken.  I previously gave vague and unhelpful directions on how to butterfly a chicken in this post, so if you'd like to be unhelped again, please click on that link. (I did link to a different site that has more specific directions on butterflying, which is more helpful.)  Basically you take poultry shears and cut along each side of the backbone, remove the backbone, and flatten out that sucker chicken.  You may need to make a vertical slit/crack along the breastbone with your knife in order to help this along.

Some recipes at this point would have you cover the chicken with plastic wrap and pound with a heavy object to achieve an even, flat layer of chicken, but that sounded like too much work and shit, I just butterflied a chicken, isn't that enough.

Season well on both sides with salt and pepper. I used the infinity ingredient dry rub, which had salt and pepper in it.

Slap the chicken, skin side down, on the grill.  It should sizzle a little.  Mine didn't. Apparently we were running out of propane, which caused all kinds of issues, like dinner taking about twice as long as it should have to cook.  C'est la vie.  Turn the heat down to medium.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the skin is nice, crispy and golden.  Flip it over.

My chicken start to try and shimmy out of its skin.  This may have had to do with some inadvertent mistargeted butchery on my part.

Cover and cook for about 12 more minutes, or until the breast meat is about 165 degrees and the thigh meat is 185 degrees.  Or, you can be like me and ruthlessly hack into it with a paring knife to see if the juices are clear (done) or still pink (not done).  Cutting into meat at this stage is typically a no-no because the juices run out but when it comes to E. coli, I choose hacking.

It was at this point that the propane, unbeknownst to me, really started to run out, and the chicken was just not cooking that well.  I severed the thighs/legs from the rest of the body to speed up cooking, but hopefully you won't have to engage in this sort of amputation.  If you do, though, just do it with love, okay?

Cook, you damn chicken, cook.

When the chicken is fully cooked, set it on a cutting board and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.  This wait seemed somewhat symbolic at this point on account of the previously-referenced hacking.  See evidence below.

I spy a gouge in the leg, multiple stab wounds in the breast, and general gross dismemberment.

But it was tasty nonetheless.  The brine gave it a lot of flavor and juiciness, and the rub was excellent.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cranberry Bean Bruschetta

Way back when, my sister introduced me to cranberry beans and a lovely little snack made with said beans.  She simmered the cranberry beans with garlic and water (and bacon or parmesan rind or tomato or...this recipe is flexible) with a sprinkling of sage at the end--perfect for topping little slices of toasted baguette.  The beans take a bit unfairly long to cook, at least 40 minutes, but if you have time, the result is savory and delicious.

So whenever I see healthy cranberry beans at the grocery store or farmers' market, I grab a bunch to make this cranberry bean topping.  Haha that's a lie. I love how that sentence made me seem like this person that cheerfully roams around markets with a cute little basket on her arm, blissfully caressing all the produce, having a little go-to recipe for each vegetable that she can make in her sleep. Whatever.  In the 10 years or so since my sister showed me this dish, I've made it about 4 times.  How's that for frequency.

You'll need:
  • 3/4 lb to 1 lb of fresh cranberry beans in the pod
  • Enough water or chicken stock to cover beans in small pot
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • About a 2-inch square piece of parmesan or one slice of bacon, diced
  • 1 or 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • About 5 medium-sized sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • Baguette slices, about 1/4-inch thick and toasted
Shuck your cranberry beans (is it shucking beans? Some other term? I don't know.).  Never seen a cranberry bean? Here you go.

Beautiful, aren't they? Well, enjoy those cranberry stripes while they last, they disappear in the cooking.

Place beans in a small pot with enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Throw in the garlic cloves.  I threw in the parmesan later because I initially forgot it, but this would be the time to put in the parmesan rind or bacon (or hell, both).

Turn heat to high until water is boiling, then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes or until beans are tender, checking every once in a while to make sure water doesn't get too low.

When beans are tender but not mushy, throw in the diced tomato.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 more minutes until the mixture is a nice brown color, and everything looks melded together.  Fish out the parmesan rind, if using, since it will be a floppy mess by now.

Sprinkle with sage, and load that topping on your crostini. Or bruschetta. I don't know the difference. I am talking out of my ass.

You can make this with other beans as well, and with dried beans. But don't expect me to give you directions on that.  I've only made this 4 times.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Melting...Just Melting...

It's been hot here.  Very hot. And humid.  I haven't been cooking that much, partly because it's too hot to cook, but also because it's hard to cook when you're melting.

Just take a look at the effects of this muggy weather.

Can't lift head, momma. So heavy.  Everything is melting.

Okay, momma, now you're squeezing too hard.

The heat is oppressing me into absolute torpor.

The humidity makes my wrinkles swell.  Do they look too big to you?

I'm officially melted.  Only copious amounts of blueberries shoved into my mouth can save me at this point.  I'll just leave you with that nugget of knowledge.