Tuesday, May 25, 2010

well I've never been to Spain.... but I kinda like the chicken...

Pollo al Mattone -
Chicken Grilled Under Bricks
Actually this grilling method is reportedly Italian (specifically Tuscan); however, the marinade I used has some terrific Spanish flavors including one of my favorites... sherry!

Grilling chicken under bricks is a very old technique that keeps the meat tender and juicy while creating a crispy browned skin. Since the chicken is grilled over a medium-low grill temperature (we used the indirect method of charcoal grilling for this - coals pushed off to the sides) it doesn't burn to a blackened crust. Even so, I chose a marinade that wouldn't be too sugary, to avoid any type of overly burned spots. In addition, this method works best with an olive oil-based marinade, as the oil also works to keep the chicken nice and moist with a delicious crispy skin.
To prepare the chicken for marinating, simply place the rinsed, dried chicken (sans giblets of course) breast side up and cut through the breast bone until you can butterfly the chicken, spreading it completely in half (this might take a little extra wrangling in some areas). The point is to make the chicken flat, therefore cooking it evenly, with the additional help of the bricks weighing it down.
I used a Spanish-style "Barcelona" marinade from a Weber cookbook as the basis of my own marinade. For one chicken, combine:
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 serrano chile peppers, roughly chopped (leave the ribs and seeds in if you like more heat, or simply use more peppers!)
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil (when gardening season is in full swing, I will be switching this to fresh basil - lots and lots of it!)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry wine
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blend until smooth in a blender or food processor. Marinate chicken in this mixture overnight in a resealable bag or covered glass container.

To grill:
I like to take items to be grilled out of the refrigerator and let them almost come to room temperature. Preheat a gas grill to a target temperature of 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling.
Wrap two bricks in aluminum foil (for cleanliness, and also to make clean-up much easier). Place the marinated chicken, skin side down to begin with, on the grate and place a brick on each half. Yes, this does look pretty comical as the chicken looks like it is the victim of a horrific accident. Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes on the skin side, then carefully remove bricks with fireproof gloves or something similar, and turn chicken over on its other side to finish cooking, again placing the bricks on each half.
Many recipes claim that the entire cooking time should be around 40 minutes but I found this to be really inaccurate. Allow at least an hour or more of total cooking time, depending on the actual size of your chicken. With this cooking method, a little longer is better and it's fairly foolproof from the standpoint of overcooking (and drying out). Use a meat thermometer to determine that the chicken is cooked thoroughly; you can also see that the juices will run clear and joints move easily.

There! That's all there is to it! This is wonderful with a nice rice pilaf and a big green salad. And a beverage of your choice, of course. Don't forget to have a sip of sherry afterward also!

Friday, May 21, 2010

my big fat Greek salad dressing

Fresh-Picked From Our Garden!
Isn't that a gorgeous plate of spring garden greens?
These fresh, delicious lettuces and spinach were picked just minutes before this photo was taken and are ready to be turned into a fabulous salad.
One of my favorite dressings is what I call "My Big Fat Greek Salad Dressing." I prefer vinaigrette style dressings made with good olive oil and lots of herbs, and this one is absolutely perfect. It's wonderful on a big traditional Greek style salad bursting with briny olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers and cucumbers, but it also makes a delicious marinade for just about any grilled veggies (terrific on eggplant or summer squash) or meats. Try it as a dressing for your next new potato salad as well.
Note: Be sure to look carefully at your apple cider vinegar label to be sure that it's real.
Some brands are actually "apple cider-flavored" white vinegar.
  • 1 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (like Colman's)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whisk ingredients together; for best flavor allow to sit overnight if possible.
If using dried herbs, add them right away. If using fresh herbs, you will have better results by adding them to the dressing just before serving.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

bacon candy!

Have you ever wondered what bacon candy might taste like? I'm thinking that it might taste a lot like this sugared bacon!
As a proud team member of Team Bacon! on Etsy, I submitted this recipe, "Arnold Palmer's Sugared Bacon" and it was recently published on the team blog, Six Degrees of Etsy Bacon.

If you're a bacon aficionado, as we are, you won't want to miss KokoDiablo's ongoing cooking series full of luscious, smokey cured goodness, like her "Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos Wrapped in Bacon". Oh my.

Oh. And one other thing... in case you haven't heard, Team Bacon! is running a weeklong challenge from May 17th to May 21st: Hide the Bacon! Simply find the hidden bacon image in participating Team Bacon! shops on Etsy and you could win a prize - now that sounds easy, doesn't it? We had eleven lucky winners on Monday - could you be one of our next winners?
Get started now!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

what would be YOUR last meal?

I came across this book during one of my junk shop hauls, and knew that it was exactly the type of subject matter I love: a little warped, slightly morbid and somehow combined with a foodie twist. What would your last supper be? "Last Suppers" by James L. Dickerson attempts to answer that question based on the replies of film, television and music stars, political and business personalities, authors, sports celebrities and of course, famous chefs. The celebrity list is a little "dated" in a 1990's way, but the answers to the question of "what would your last supper be?" are all interesting and revealing.

Some replies are predictable. As you can imagine, the choices of chefs tended to be like this one: "Napoleon of Seared Cape Cod Sea Scallops with Yukon Gold Potatoes, Winter Truffles, and an Asparagus Emulsion". And but of course, the chairman and CEO of Boston Beer Company suggests a different Samuel Adams beer with each of his courses. Some selections leave you scratching your head - George Zimmer, CEO of The Men's Wearhouse chooses oatmeal with brown sugar and low-fat milk. Um, I'm going for the unhealthiest, fat-laden fried and cheesy things I can find, dude. No way would oatmeal be the last thing I eat on my last day on this planet.

I found my own choice to be most similar to Gregg Allman's: catfish and hush puppies, red beans and rice, sweet iced tea, and tiramisu (although I'd likely swap fried chicken for the catfish and get a beer in there somewhere). Or, maybe Ann Coulter's last supper: margaritas.

A guest list for each celeb's last supper is also included, and many of the menu choices are accompanied by recipes (although the one that I really wanted to read was not included, naturally - Chef Todd English's "chocolate hash browns." Say what?)

The book concludes with the actual last suppers of several deceased celebrities, based on eyewitness accounts, etc. Of course, most of these people didn't actually choose their last suppers; it just sort of unfortunately happened that way. The exception would be Ernest Hemingway, who apparently calmly dined on his usual choices at his favorite restaurant before shooting himself the next morning: New York strip steak, baked potato, Caesar salad and Bordeaux wine.

Marilyn Monroe's final meal was reportedly at a Brentwood restaurant where she ate guacamole, stuffed mushrooms, spicy meatballs and washed it down with Dom Perignon champagne. Yeah. I could go for that, I think.

Overall, this is a good read; the reader is introduced to true comfort food stories. I mean, your choice of a last supper menu should be foods that you absolutely love and want to share with loved ones (or a freaky and surreal "celebrities in heaven" guest list) as the last meal you will ever enjoy. Even if that last meal is oatmeal.

"Last Suppers - If the World Ended Tomorrow, What Would Be Your Last Meal?" by James L. Dickerson; 1999 Lebhar-Friedman Books, New York.


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