Spring Chicken Surprises
Spring means something different to each of us. It means warmer days (allegedly). It means lawns are beginning to come back. It means crocuses and daffodils and tulips and hyacinth. And azaleas and rhododendrons and lilacs. It means the return of the hummingbirds. It means digging and turning, weeding and seeding, composting and mulching.
It means Fat Tuesday and Lent and Mardi Gras. It means Good Friday and Easter and Passover.
It means baseball!
And with all due respect for my colleague Clarkie, it means getting out in the backyard, scrubbing and cleaning the grill, getting it ready for another season of outdoor cooking. I recognize that for some, grilling is a passion, a way of life.
I’m not one of those. I find that getting the grill ready for another season is therapeutic. To me, it is a rite of passage, that we’ve survived another winter, that summer isn’t just a memory, but rather is only just sixty days away.
To celebrate the onset of spring, I’m introducing two of my favorite grilled chicken recipes. Both recipes include fresh rosemary, and represent the first opportunity I have to use something growing in my garden. The rosemary, an evergreen, survived the winter in fine style.
Grilled Split Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic
1 3½-pound chicken
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
16 oz. ginger ale
Olive oil spray
- Remove and discard giblets and neck. Rinse with cold water and pat very dry.
- Cut through the chicken backbone with chicken shears, or place the chicken, breast-side down on a cutting board and cut in half lengthwise along the backbone, cutting all the way to, but not through the breast bone. Turn the chicken over, and using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast, thighs and drumsticks, but don’t remove the skin.
- Place the chicken, breast side up, in a large shallow dish. Combine the remaining ingredients except the olive oil; pour under the skin and over the surface of the chicken. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Preheat the grill, move the briquettes to one side (or turn off half the burners), and place a disposable pan on the other side and add the ginger ale. Coat the grate over the pan with olive oil, and place the chicken, skin side down, on the coated rack. Close the cover and grill 90 minutes, turn it over, and continue grilling—about another 90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 180ºF. Discard skin before serving.
Lemon-Rosemary Chicken Under a Skillet
1 3 ½ pound chicken
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges for serving.
- Prepare the chicken as before, splitting the back and separating the skin. Insert a whole rosemary sprig under the skin, pushing it all the way through until one sprig rests the length of each chicken half. Using a tablespoon, work the minced garlic under the skin, covering the meat as completely as possible. Sprinkle both sides with salt.
- Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the chicken, cover and refrigerate 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.
- Prepare the grill, coating the grates with cooking oil. Place the chicken on the grate, skin side down, at a 45-degree angle to the grill bars. Set a large cast-iron skillet on top of the chicken, close the cover and grill over a medium-hot fire for twelve minutes. Rotate the chicken a quarter turn after four minutes for attractive grill marks. Flip the chicken, replace the skillet, and grill until it is cooked through, twelve to fifteen minutes longer. Serve with lemon wedges.