Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 319 - Grilling a Whole Chicken, Perfect Grilled Bell Peppers, and Perfect Grilled Leeks

My cousin Harriet is over for dinner tonight. Harriet was here for one of my favorite dishes in the book, Sautéed Skate Wing, so it's going to take a lot of kitchen magic to match or top that meal....

Grilling a Whole Chicken (p. 169)

I can't say I was looking forward to making this. I do love a nice chicken, but grilled? Whole? I missed the opportunity to do this on a real grill over the summer, so I'm stuck grilling on the stovetop cast iron thing. Since the chicken needs to be covered, I came up with the brilliant idea of using my fish poacher upside down, since it's roughly the same size and shape as the cast iron grill.

Since this is in the same section of the book as the Spatchcocked Chicken recipe, I was reminded of the brine that Martha uses for that dish. I figured, why not try it again? So I brined this chicken (recipe on p, 167) for a few hours in the fridge. Then I put it on the grill and waited for the automatic thermometer to tell me it was done (165° in the thigh).

About 45 minutes later, the thermometer was beeping and the bottom looked like this. Who doesn't like some nice burned chicken skin??

Then I flipped it over to brown the skin on the breast. It didn't brown as quickly as Martha said it would, maybe because I had brined the bird. In fact, where the chicken wasn't browned, it looked kind of sad and pale. (see right)

But who cares what a chicken looks like when it tastes this amazing?? OMG, I thought the Perfect Roast Chicken was the only way to go, but this is a definite contender! I don't think it's the grilling that made this so great. I'm pretty sure it's the brining. The meat was SO flavorful and moist. In fact, I'd made a Mango Pineapple Chutney to accompany what I was sure was going to be a dried-out, horrible, grilled whole chicken. But we didn't even want to use the chutney because it distracted from the amazing chicken!

The real test will be brining a chicken and then roasting it. Maybe THAT'S the ultimate whole chicken experience....

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Perfect Grilled Leeks (p. 350)

I was showing off to Harriet as I was prepping these leeks: "You know, leeks are very dirty. Wanna see a trick for washing them without chopping them?" and I proceeded to trim them and do that fanning out the leeks thing under runnning water to clean them. Meanwhile, I hadn't read this recipe thoroughly enough to remember that these were going to get boiled before grilling. I had trimmed the root end off! Now they'd never stay together in the leek pot!

Then, I came up with my next brilliant idea to use a toothpick to hold them together, which pretty much worked. (One fell apart.) I boiled the leeks, then grilled them, then slid out the toothpicks before serving.

I'm not sure if I overcooked them in the water (I didn't even go the full 8 of the 8-10 minutes Martha suggests) or if this is just the way it goes, but to me, after being drained and grilled, the leeks still seemed waterlogged.

But don't ask me. I've just come to the conclusion that I don't love leeks. Why don't I love them? This is going to sound weird, but I think they taste (and smell) a little barfy. So I probably shouldn't weigh in on Perfect Grilled Leeks.

Happily, Harriet loved them, so I'll give myself an A. :-)

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Perfect Grilled Bell Peppers (p. 349)

I may have just realized that I don't like leeks, but I have always been certain that I hate bell peppers. I don't like the taste, the first time or the fifth. They give me instant indigestion, and I can taste them a mile away.

I took the opportunity to make them tonight because I know Harriet likes them, and if she wasn't able to finish them, I could count on her to take them home (and far away from me).

I charred them on the grill, while the chicken was cooking, then put them in a paper bag, per Martha's instructions. After 10 minutes steaming in the bag, the skin is quite easy to rub off, except where the pepper hasn't been charred. I had to do a little knife work in those places, but in the end, I had four beautiful grilled pepper halves. Warning: after charring and spending 10 minutes in the bag, the peppers fill up with liquid inside, so be prepared.

Harriet was loving them so much that she insisted I try them. I have to confess, they did taste pretty good. For peppers, that is. They were surprisingly sweet. Like, fruit sweet. (I always forget that peppers are in the fruit family.) I thought there might be a pepper door opening for me, but then it slammed shut with that first burp seconds later. Why such indigestion? Ah well....

Still, this recipe is sure to please pepper lovers everywhere.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....


  1. You should have cooked the leek recipe on March 1st. That way, if you didn't like them, you could have also worn them in your hat in honor of Saint David's Day as the Welsh do. There is a wonderful Shakespeare speech on it that Kenneth Branagh filmed magnificently in "Henry the Fifth"
    (at 3:05)

    "Your grandfather of famous memory, an ’t please your majesty, and your great uncle Edward the Plack Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.
    K. Hen. They did, Fluellen.
    Flu. Your majesty says very true: if your majesties is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty know, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service; and, I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon St Tavy's day."

  2. Wow, Walter. You must be a Shakespearean scholar to remember a reference like that! Thanks for posting!