Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 106 - How to Spatchcock a Chicken, Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken, Grilled Celery Root, Portobello Mushroom, Radicchio, Sweet Potato, and Tomato

As if FNBF weren't fabulous enough, guess what else he comes with? A backyard and a grill! Yes, hidden behind his East Village apartment building is a private garden wonderland of his own creation and curation. When he moved into this rental three years ago, the backyard was one big cement slab, but last summer he sledgehammered it to death, carried away the rubble, and brought the soil back to life, and now it's a veritable forest/English garden. (I'm just realizing I have no pictures of the garden to display... next time.)

How to Spatchcock a Chicken (p. 113)

OK, some words are just too interesting, and spatchcock is one of them. Martha speculates on the origin of it, but I'd rather use my own imagination.

For some reason, I had imagined that this was going to be a really complicated procedure, with lots of deboning, but then when I actually read the instructions and did it, it took about a minute and couldn't have been easier. All you're doing is cutting the back from a chicken and flattening it out, so that it will cook evenly on the grill. 1-2-3 done.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken (p. 167)

I do love a brine, yes I do. Having brined a few Thanksgiving turkeys and a chicken or two, I'm here to say that the enhancement in taste can't be beat. Why does so much flavor come from a simple salt and sugar soak? I don't know, but trust me, it's worth the time and effort! (especially with turkey)

This brine is quick and easy, particularly now that I have my new microplane grater to zest a lemon and an orange in no time! :-) I chose to let it brine in the refrigerator for three hours, but you can also do it for one hour sitting out.

We did run into a little problem when grilling time came around. First of all, the chicken starts skin side down, covered by a pan filled with bricks to weigh it down, and after 8-10 minutes, the chicken is supposed to release itself easily to be flipped. Well, it did no such thing. The skin was holding on for dear life. Two theories: 1) sometimes skin just sticks (especially when it's being pressed into the grill with a weighted pan), or 2) the grill wasn't hot enough and the chicken wasn't as cooked as it needed to be to release itself.

I put forth theory #2 because it became clear later in the cooking process that the chicken wasn't done when it "should" have been. (Again, my crazy timings aren't matching up with Martha's.) We left it on a good 15-20 minutes longer than she said, and it turned out to be cooked just right. So who knows... grill temperatures are impossible to keep constant.

I felt like I had to mention the skin thing because in the pictures, it's clear that something happened there, and I wanted you to know what it was.

Meanwhile, the chicken is DELICIOUS! There's a sweet glaze that gets brushed on a few times after the chicken's been flipped, and it's fab. And the brine gives the meat great flavor. My chicken needed no seasoning on the plate.

I should add that we ate that whole chicken ourselves. So much for "serves 5."

This is a GREAT way to grill chicken, so much better than chicken parts, and only a little more complicated. Totally worth it!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grilled Celery Root (p. 349)

Having experienced Celery Root when I made the Puree, I thought I knew my way around it. Well, color me wrong. I peeled that bad boy, and it is not an easy job to peel a celery root. They're knobby and dirty, with lots of nooks and crannies. And I thought I did a pretty good job.

Then we parboiled them, which was fine. But we tasted a par-boiled piece, and it had a very fibrous outer layer to it. This fibrousness only got worse as the pieces were grilled. By the time it was served, the vast perimeter of each piece was like an inedible crust, which we had to nibble around. Which was too bad, because the celery root was delicious.

I wonder if I should have peeled it more deeply... possibly, but I peeled it the same way when I did the puree, and I don't remember it ever being this thready and thistly. Or maybe it was a strangely fibrous specimen. In any case, great taste, weird consistency.

Jeff: A- (Just in case I did something wrong...)
Martha: A

Grilled Portobello Mushroom (p. 350)

Yum! Meaty and dense and delicious, perfect for grilling, no muss, no fuss, just yummy, bringing out the absolute best of the mushroom flavor.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grilled Radicchio (p. 350)

I loved this, FNBF not so much. But I think it has to do with your affection for radicchio to begin with. (I love it, FNBF not so much.) Grilling it gives it a kind of smoky flavor, but it's not soggy, like it gets when it's braised. I prefer the grilled version much more than a vinegary braise. I'd do this again.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grilled Sweet Potato (p. 350)

Wonderful. Simple. Delicious. Exactly what you'd expect. I'm surprised Martha says 2-4 minutes each side, because ours took considerably more time than that. But all our food did, so why am I surprised?

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Grilled Tomato (p. 350)

Eh. Just OK. This has so much more to do with me than the recipe. I've never enjoyed grilled/stewed/broiled tomatoes. I will say this, though. It's the first tomato I've eaten this season that had a good tomato taste.

FNBF thought this could have used another flavor... That might have made it more appealing to me... a splash of balsamic?

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....

It's a festival of grilled veggies, with a splayed chicken in the middle!

Weird lighting, but you can see our sweet bird and a little bit of FNBF's lovely garden.

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