Life in a Northern Town

Try A Little Thai On The Grill

Since I live many, many miles from the closest Thai restaurant, I have honed my Thai cooking skills. Not that I mind, I love the smell of lime, garlic, cilantro, nam pla and soy sauce. I made this chicken in 2003 for Charlie's birthday (my first foray into Thai cookery) and have made it ever since. That birthday party was also the first time I made mojitos for a crowd (before I had to develop and hone my bartending skills). I made pitchers of mojitos and forgot to mention to my guests that they needed to add soda water to mitigate the massive amounts of Bacardi Limon, sugar, lime and mint in the pitchers. Needless to say, it was a lively party and everyone needed to eat by the time dinner was served.

I love my grill. It is a Primo ceramic grill/smoker and in my opinion, it's perfect. In typical Maven fashion, I researched the grill question endlessly and it paid off. I can smoke ribs at 200 degrees, grill chicken at 400 degrees or sear a steak at 600 degrees. I am a big believer in hardwood lump charcoal because it free of any funky stuff and it burns steady and hot. I used to use Royal Oak Steakhouse blend charcoal (I bought it at Menard's) but switched to Cowboy because my local hardware store carries it. The charcoal chimney starter never lasts long around here, I always forget to watch it and the handle catches fire. Which begs the question— why do they use a wooden handle on a charcoal starter, planned obsolescence??

Thai Grilled Chicken (from Fine Cooking)

15 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 tbsp peppercorns, toasted and ground

3/4 cup minced cilantro stems (from about 1 large bunch)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 chicken, 3-1/2 to 4 pounds, fat trimmed and discarded, chicken rinsed and thoroughly patted dry

Make the marinade

In a food processor, mince the garlic with the salt. Add the ground coriander seeds, ground peppercorns, cilantro stems, soy sauce, and oil; purée until completely blended, 1 to 2 minutes. You'll have about 1 cup marinade. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and set aside (refrigerate it if you're working ahead).

Prepare and grill the chicken

Butterfly the chicken. Rinse the chicken and dry it with paper towels.

To butterfly a chicken, position the chicken breast side down. With poultry shears or a sharp chef's knife, cut along one side of the backbone and then down the other. Discard the backbone.

Turn the chicken over and press firmly on the center of the breast. You'll need to break the sternum and some ribs for it to lie flat.

Gently separate the breast and thigh skin from the flesh and slip a bit of the marinade under the skin. Then put the chicken and the rest of the marinade in a large zip-top bag, seal the bag, and massage it to distribute the marinade all over the chicken. Marinate the chicken refrigerated, for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. Half an hour or so before grilling, take the chicken out of the refrigerator, remove it from the bag, and put it on a platter.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire with the coals banked to one side or heat a gas grill to high on one side and medium-low on the other.

Spray the chicken generously with the vegetable oil spray and set it, breast side down, on the hottest part of the grill. Cook the chicken uncovered, turning once, until the skin has deep golden grill marks, 7 to 10 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and grill the chicken indirectly, turning every 5 minutes or so, until the juices run clear when the spot between the thigh and breast is pricked and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers at least 165°F, another 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and tent with foil. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with Sweet and Sour Sauce and Jasmine rice.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp rice vinegar

7 cloves garlic, minced

In a small, dry saucepan, toast the red pepper flakes over high heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the salt, sugar, and rice vinegar; cook over medium-low heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in the garlic. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool completely. Makes 1/2 cup