Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just between Us

We’ve known each other long enough for me now to entrust you with my very favorite way to prepare chicken. I learned the general approach from my mom, and have developed my own version.

First, I recommend that you buy a whole chicken (hen, fryer, or roaster is fine) rather than pay the per-pound premium for pre-cut. With a sharp knife and a bit of patience, you can save yourself $1-$2 – plus relearn some high school biology.
Second, you need to inherit as I did (or buy) a large cast iron skillet for this recipe to work. I am fortunate to own three of various sizes. This dish uses the largest – a 13-14” behemoth weighting close to 10 pounds.

Third, it is best to use a charcoal grill – although I have made it in a gas grill and in the oven.

The Method

  • One whole chicken, cut into serving pieces (I would suggest halving the breasts width-wise.)
  • 4 limes
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into peeled cloves
  • Seasoning – I prefer Penzey’s Southwest or Northwoods Fire spice mixes, and have made my own versions of this. I use 3-4 TBs.
  1. Put the juice, garlic cloves, and seasoning in a gallon ziploc bag. Squish to blend. You can add the lime rinds, too.
  2. Add the chicken pieces.
  3. Shake and turn the bag to coat all of the pieces.
  4. Allow marinade to set for at least an hour – 3-4 if possible.
  5. Prepare the grill as you would normally – with a pile of ~30 briquettes.
  6. After the grill is hot and ready for cooking, remove the chicken to a deep cast iron skillet skin-side down.
  7. Place the garlic cloves (and limes) on top of the chicken.
  8. Set the skillet on the grill screen directly over the coals.
  9. Close the grill for 45 minutes.
  10. Open the grill and use tongs to reposition the chicken pieces. (Turn once the skin has browned.)
    • NOTE: the skillet will fill with juices from the chicken and marinade during the first hour of cooking. I’ve always left these to cook off, although you could remove them. They help to caramelize the skin and flavor the meat, however; so I would leave them.
  11. Cook for another 20-30 minutes after turning. (The chicken will be done before you flip it, but I like to have it brown on all sides.)
The Results
IMG00718-20091221-1936 We eat this 3-4 times per month. The chicken absorbs the marinade and develops an almost-chewy caramelized texture on the outside. The best portions, in my opinion, are the back and wings. These don’t have much meat, but do become especially flavorful.
We served this with brown rice and OPO greens (steamed with radishes). [You can see the brown crispies from the skillet to the right – these include chunks of now-roasted garlic. Heaven!]

I don’t recommend using a juice or marinade with much sugar in it, as these tend to burn over such a high heat and long cooking time. For example, I have had difficulties in substituting orange juice for the limes.

You owe me one.

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009