Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

For my Labor Day weekend grilling, I’m taking advantage of the local sales on whole chickens and bags of lemons.

I’ve always been a fan of lemon pepper seasoning on seafood, especially fish and shrimp and my dad loves it on his steaks, whether venison or beef. But don’t forget that it also goes really well on chicken, too. You can buy a jar of the seasoning from the store or make your own. I use this version when making my own.

Because Michelle made a special request, I’m serving the chicken with a broccoli casserole and some grilled zucchini with lemon salt. Recipe for the zucchini was found on the Pioneer Woman’s website.

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

4-5 lb chicken
4 lemons, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning, divided

Butterfly chicken by cutting out the backbone and the wings. Reserve the backbone and wings for stock. Place remaining chicken in a zip top bag.

Zest two of the lemons and then place the zest and juice from three lemons in a bowl. You want to have about a 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Whisk together with the olive oil, garlic and 1 tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning. Pour the marinade over the chicken and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours, occasionally turning the chicken to make sure it is fully covered.

Remove from marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle both sides with remaining tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning.

Set up the grill for indirect cooking. Place chicken on the cool side of the grates with the legs facing the coals. Grill chicken for approximately 60 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Let rest 5 minutes before carving.

For the last 15 minutes of grilling, place the final lemon, cut in half on the grill. Once you’ve plated the chicken for serving, squeeze some of the grilled lemon on each piece for a bright hit of lemon flavor.

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Whole Chicken

I tip my hat to my brother-in-law, Wayne, who made such a delicious bacon wrapped pork loin that I decided to get in on the fun. I choose a chicken as I had one thawing.

I didn’t have a can of beer so I drank a can of Coke and filled it halfway with water and dropped in a couple of garlic cloves. I went with the “beer can up the butt” method as that was the easiest way to get the bird in a position for the wrapping. It also keeps the grill environment moist during the cook.

Use your favorite chicken rub for the dry brine. I used my Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub. You’re looking for a good amount of kosher salt as you’re basically jumpstarting a breakdown of the protein structure. This denaturing makes the meat hold onto more water so your final result will be a tender and juicy bird. I don’t generally rinse the brine off but, because the bacon is salty, I brushed off as much as I could before wrapping.

I only had thick cut bacon in the house, so I went out and bought a cheap pack of thin for this recipe and it shrank so much it pulled off the toothpicks. It did give plenty of flavor anyway and ended up looking like the chicken was wearing a coat of many colors. The finished resulted looked awesome and tasted delicious. The meat was luscious and juicy with just the right amount of seasoning and a little crunch from the cooked bacon.

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Whole Chicken

4 lb whole chicken, neck and giblets removed
2 tablespoons Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub
1 can beer or soda – drink half the beer or all the soda
2 cloves garlic
1 lb bacon, thin sliced
bunch of toothpicks

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Use a dry rub to cover the chicken both inside and out. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight but no more than 24 hours.

Remove chicken from fridge and brush off any visible salt. Set aside to dry while you prepare the grill for indirect cooking. Fill and light a charcoal chimney and, once the coals are ashy, pour them around the edge in a horseshoe shape.

Drop the garlic cloves into the half full can of beer (or half filled with water coke can). Work the chicken onto the can by placing the can on a solid surface and setting the back end of chicken over the top of the can. Work it down until it is securely inside. Use the legs to set it up like a tripod and begin the process of draping it in bacon.

Wrap the chicken strip by strip with bacon and secure with toothpicks. Don’t forget the wings Transfer the chicken, with it’s can, to the grill and place it on the center of the grate and drop in some wood chips for smoke.

Cook the chicken for at least an hour or until temperature of the thighs is 175 to 180 degrees F. Remove from the grill and let stand for 10 minutes before removing the can and then carving the bird.

Grilled Chicken for Remembrance and Courage

As we close out 2018, I’ve been thinking back about the past year. It has been quite a yeasty time – personally, politically, environmentally and even culinarily. We’ve lost some powerful voices but have also seen many new champions step up to answer the challenges facing us.

In the spirit of endings and new beginnings, I decided to make a grilled chicken recipe to celebrate the art of constructive remembering and helping gird our loins to face another year. As the flower folks tell us: rosemary for remembrance and thyme for courage.

So, my New Year’s wish is for you to have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going and the insight to know when you’ve gone too far.

Rosemary Thyme Gilled Chicken

8 bone in chicken thighs

4 black tea bags (I used Lemon Lift)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make 1 quart of strong tea by steeping tea bags for 15 minutes. Add in salt, brown sugar and peppercorns and stir until salt and sugar have dissolved. Add in 1 quart of ice and stir until all the ice has melted. Pour over the chicken and brine the chicken overnight in the fridge.

Rinse the chicken and store in the fridge until an hour before you set up your grill.

In a small bowl, use a fork to mash together the rosemary, butter, thyme, garlic, zest, and salt and pepper, until combined well. Use your hands to smear the butter mixture all over the brined chicken. Melt the remaining butter.

Over a grill set for indirect cooking, place the chicken skin side down. Cook for 15 minutes before flipping the chicken so the skin is up. Baste the chicken with the butter mixture. Continue grilling for 45 minutes more or until it registers 170 degrees F. Baste after 30 minutes and again as you pull the meat off the grill.

 

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Lemon Sage Chicken

I have a serious amount of satsuma juice from my Dad’s tree, so I used a quart of it for a brine for the thighs from a 10lb bag of leg quarters. Of course, you can easily substitute orange juice or, if doing pork, switch to apple juice if you aren’t lucky enough to have satsuma juice at the ready.

The satsuma adds a brightness to the brine without adding too much acid plus the lemon goes really well with sage and chicken.

Satsuma Brined and Grilled Chicken

Brine:
1 quart water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 quart satsuma or orange juice
1 quart ice

Lemon Sage Wet Rub:

2 lemons, 1 of them zested
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring the water, salt, brown sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat. Add in the satsuma (or orange) juice and ice cubes. Stir to melt the ice. Once the brine has cooled, add the meat and refrigerate. Brine for 12-24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine the morning before grilling and rinse it off. Place it uncovered in the fridge to dry the skin out a little.

About an hour before prepping the grill, pull out the chicken and let it sit on the counter. Set up the grill for indirect cooking with coals on two sides and some hickory chunks soaking.

To prepare the wet rub – combine the lemon zest and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Mince them together. Add the salt and chopped sage leaves and use the side of the knife to work the herbs into the garlic to make a paste. Place the paste in a bowl with the juice from one of the lemons and the pepper and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Rub over the chicken thighs.

Once the coals are ready, place the thighs skin side down on the center of the grate. After 10 minutes, flip them over and place thin slices from the remaining lemon on top. Continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until done. Chicken thighs are at a safe temperature when they reach 165 degrees F. Because of the brining, you can let them go all the way to 170 degrees F without drying them out.

For serving, squeeze the lemon slice over the thigh for a bright hit of lemon.

 

Grilling My Free Turkey From Winn Dixie

I walked in my local Winn-Dixie and saw a great offer: Now through 11/21/18 you get a free Thanksgiving turkey when you get a no cost flu shot. As I had been planning to get a vaccine anyway, I headed over to the pharmacist and got a jab and my coupon. Because my health insurance covers annual flu vaccines, I walked out with a 10lb bird for absolutely no cost.

I decided to cook it on the grill. The only way I was going to fit the bird on my Weber was if I spatchcocked it first. A bonus for cutting out the backbone and pressing it flat it it cut down the cooking time. By putting the legs closest to the coals, it also makes sure the white meat and dark meat reach 165 degrees F at the close to the same time.

I cut the backbone and wings off and added them and the neck to a pot with 3 quarts of water, a quartered onion, 3 stalks of celery and 2 carrots, broken in half. After about two hours of simmering, I strained out the solids and had around two quarts stock, perfect for making gravy.

I took a picture at an hour and then forgot to take another. Trust me, it looked prettier in person when done and tasted marvelous – juicy and flavorful.

Grilled Spatchcocked Turkey

1 10-12lb turkey
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon coarse salt
salt and pepper to taste

To spatchcock the turkey, use poultry shears to cut out the backbone. Flip the bird over and press down to snap the breastbone. Set aside the backbone and neck (and I also cut off the wings, as they tend to get dry and burn) to make a stock.

Mix half the herbs with the softened butter. Divide butter mixture in half. Gently lift the skin up and work half the butter over each breast. Massage it around for good coverage. Sprinkle both sides of the turkey with remaining herb mixture. Place the bird in the refrigerator, breast side down overnight to dry out the skin.

Pull the turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before ready to grill. Coat with olive oil.

Build an indirect fire and place a wood chunk on the coals to smoke. Place a drip pan on the cool side and replace the grill. Set the turkey on the grill, bone side down and with legs closest to the coals. Grill for 60-90 minutes depending on the weight of the bird. Safe temperature is 165 degrees F. If you check it and find any parts getting too brown, cover those areas with aluminum foil.

Once turkey has been grilled to golden perfection, remove to a carving board and tent with foil. Let rest at least 15 minutes and as long as thirty while you make the gravy.

You need two cups of liquid for the gravy. I usually pour about 1/2 cup of stock in the pan with the drippings and use that to help loosen all the brown bits. I pour it in a two cup measuring cup and skim off the fat. I then fill the rest of the measuring cup with stock.

Turkey Gravy

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Pan drippings and stock to make two cups
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet. Whisk in the flour and stir until well coated. Keep stirring until lightly brown and the flour taste has been cooked out, about 5 minutes.

Slowly whisk in the liquid, adding only small amounts in at a time and stirring until incorporated and lump free. Once all the liquid is added, continue to stir and cook until bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Let thicken and then begin to season.

Should you get it too salty, you can add more stock, stir well and let thicken again. This is why I recommend not seasoning until the gravy has thickened.

Taking Chicken Kiev South

What’s not to like about the herbed buttery taste of Chicken Kiev? Some may consider the dish old fashioned but I dream sometimes of those hidden pockets of melted, herbed butter that spurt as you cut into it.

It is all good to dream but I knew it could be better if I grilled it instead of coating it in breadcrumbs and baking it. And, of course, everything tastes better with bacon. Here is this southerner’s take on the classic dish.

I did make a few without the bacon and, with judicious handling (and double the toothpicks), the butter pocket stayed intact until they reached the table. Even where the butter had leaked out a bit, the herbs had been left behind, so the chicken still tasted awesome.

8 chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
2 sticks butter
6 tablespoons tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
16 slices of bacon

In a food processor, mix the butter, tarragon, garlic and lemon. Place on a plastic sheet and form into a roll. Place in the freezer for a couple hours to chill.

Take the chicken thighs lightly salt and pepper both sides. Slice the herbed butter and place 2 tablespoons of butter inside each thigh. Close it up to envelop the butter inside and place on top of two pieces of bacon laid crosswise. Use the bacon to seal the chicken closed and secure with baker’s twine or toothpicks. Refrigerate while you prepare the grill.

Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Lay down a drip pan to contain any blowouts. I used a hickory chunk for smoke. Place the thighs on the grill, open side up and cook for fifteen minutes. Melt any leftover herbed butter and baste the thighs before rotating the chicken thighs one quarter turn, making sure to keep the open end up. Continue cooking, basting and rotating until meat is done, about 45 minutes to an hour. Safe temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F.

Remove twine and toothpicks and serve with any leftover basting liquid.

Any bacon that didn’t crisp, save and crisp in the microwave. Freeze in a zip top bag and crumble over salad or baked potato for the best bacon bits ever.

Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub

While wandering through the Fall Plant Sale from the Herb Society of America, New Orleans Unit, I saw lots of rosemary and sage plants (and we even bought a non-edible sage – Salvia oxyphora). When out grocery shopping later and we found a great deal on chicken thighs, I already knew the flavor profile I wanted.

After letting the chicken sit for a while in a sweet tea brine, I prepared a rub with rosemary and sage. I set the grill up for indirect cooking and I started the thighs skin side down for the first 15 minutes to get some lovely marks on them before flipping them over to cook the rest of the way. It took about an hour total for them to reach 170 degrees F.

Sweet tea brine

3 black tea bags
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
10 chicken thighs

Steep the tea in 4 cups of hot water at least five minutes and until good and dark. Add the sugar and salt and stir until they’ve dissolved. Add in the lemon peel and 2 cups of ice. Stir to melt the ice and cool down the brine. Pour over chicken and put in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Drain the chicken and pat dry. Keep in the refrigerator until about an hour before grilling. Sprinkle both sides with the Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub and let sit on the counter until your fire is ready.

Rosemary Sage Grilling Rub

1/4 cup fresh, chopped rosemary leaves (measure after chopping)
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons granulated garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Using your fingers to mix all the ingredients to combine and then sprinkle on the chicken. Place any unused rub in an airtight container.

I served the chicken with chicken broth potatoes and a small spinach salad (Michelle insisted on something green!).