So it’s not a gorgeous picture, it tasted gorgeous and that’s what counts.
Here’s the thing. Even during my meat eating years I wasn’t all that big a fan of chicken. It just tasted like, well, chicken. A little dry, boring, nothing to get worked up about unless you coated it with fry, which we never did in my house. We either grilled it and doused it with lemon and garlic in the Lebanese way or ate a hybrid dish my dad used to make from Craig Claiborne's NYT Cookbook that he called “Poulet Morengo Chicken Portuguese” (catchy huh?) I hated it.
Since venturing back into the land of the omnivores, chicken has given me great pause. I hate what they do to commercially raised chicken and I just flat out won’t eat one, which really narrows my chicken options. The few times I’ve gotten a good local free range chicken I have fried it, with good results, but otherwise, eh, I just haven’t been that into it.
But right before we left Bloomington to come to Apalachicola I bought ten nice fat chickens from Schacht Farm and we brought two of them with us, frozen, in the cooler. Last night we cooked the second one and it was a poultry revelation.
I used one of my favorite standby cookbooks for when I really don’t know what I am doing – The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. They suggest a way of grilling chicken I hadn’t run into before, taking out the backbone and laying the bird flat on the grill, skin side down over indirect heat for half an hour. Seemed straightforward enough, and hard to mess up.
So that’s what we did. Started with a tasty chicken whose good life I could vouch for. Brined it in 2 quarts of water, ½ cup salt, ½ cup sugar and some chopped garlic for an hour. Took it out and dried it off.
Tweaking the ATK recipe, I heated up a cup of olive oil, lots of chopped garlic, a couple tablespoons dried basil, red pepper flakes, pepper, and a shake or two of cinnamon. Loosened the chicken’s skin and spooned the oil/garlic/basil mixture all under the skin. Saved some for later.
Grilled the chicken as per the recipe – skin side down off direct heat for about 40 minutes. That was it. Carved it and ate it with potatoes and carrots roasted in a bit of the same oil. Meanwhile I had simmered the oil so the garlic was soft and I drizzled it all over the cooked chicken, potatoes, and carrots. Squeezed a lemon over all.
Amazingly good. The chicken was beyond flavorful – a tasty chicken to start out with, then the brine, then the flavored oil, then the grill. Really special. Did NOT taste just like any chicken I’d ever eaten!