Thursday, November 4, 2010

Char! Char! Char!

I love the flavour of BBQ or char grilled food. Something about that smoky flavour and caramelised character really adds another dimension of flavour and texture to the food. Today's recipe uses this technique, along with delicious fresh herbs and the lovely rich citrus kick of preserved lemons to make a very special roasted chicken. I cooked the chicken on the Weber - over the coals with the lid on - and I flattened the chicken, Portugese style to speed up  the cooking time and maximise the exposure of the meat to all those lovely coals. You can of course cook the chicken in the oven or on a standard hooded BBQ if you aren't able to do the coals thing. I teamed the chicken with a very simple char grilled vegetable salad and ate it with some lovely rustic sourdough bread.

If you haven't used preserved lemon before, I have included instructions for how to prepare it for cooking in the recipe below. You use only the rind - the rest of the preserved lemon will be very salty and inedible. You will find preserved lemon at middle eastern grocery stores and gourmet food shops. It is very easy to make your own preserved lemons, but they take about a month to be ready for use. Make them when lemons are in season and at their best. I just wash the lemons well and slice a deep cross into the top of them (they should open up like a flower but still be in one piece) Then I pack them into sterilised jars to which I add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, a few cloves and a stick of cinnamon. Then I pack them in salt and top them up with lemon juice. They then go into a dark place for about a month. I turn the jars every few days to keep everything well mixed. The lemons should be completely covered, so you may need to add more lemon juice and salt as you go. Choose jars with airtight lids - you don't want the air getting in to your lemons and spoiling them.

All of the herbs that I used in my recipe were picked fresh right from our garden. I am getting so much pleasure from having some outside space and growing herbs and veges. I currently have 13 different herbs, along with baby Cos lettuce, Roma tomatoes, chillies, beetroot, capsicums and french radishes. I will add to this as time progresses. I am really new to the whole garden thing and it is pretty much trial and error - with advice from friends and some online info. I am blessed with a sunny yard so things seem to be growing very fast. I am looking forward to when the vegetable crops mature and I can take them straight from the garden to the table. We recently aquired a compost bin so we will be recycling our scraps too, to add to the already rich soil that we have. There are lots of worms in the ground and the plants look happy - so far, so good!

Hope that you enjoy this different take on the basic roast chicken....

Lemony Herbed Chicken with Char Grilled Vegetable Salad

You will need: 1 whole chicken
(for the chicken marinade) 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme (I used lemon thyme for an extra lemony kick), 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 1 teaspoon minced red chilli, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons pureed preserved lemon*see note, salt and pepper.

(for the char grilled vegetable salad) 1 medium eggplant, 2 medium zucchini, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped continental parsley, 2 medium tomatoes - diced with seeds removed, salt and pepper, extra olive oil.

(for the chicken) Combine all of the chicken marinade ingredients and set aside.

Wash the chicken with cold water and dry inside and out with paper towels. Lay the chicken on a chopping board breast down. Now, with a sharp knife cut down either side of the backbone. This will remove the backbone/tail in one piece - disguard this backbone. If there is any offal attached to the remaining chicken, trim it off.
Next, turn the chicken over so that it is breast up. With the palm of your hand, push down firmly to flatten the chicken out. Now that the backbone is removed, this will be quite simple to do. You now have one flat chicken!
Rub about 2/3 of the marinade mixture over the chicken, including under the skin as much as you can. This should be easy now that the backbone has been removed. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Cook the chicken on a BBQ with a hood, or a Weber (preferably over coals if you can, the flavour is even better this way) breast down to start with - for about 40 minutes. Turn frequently and baste with the remaining marinade. Allow the chicken to rest, covered in foil for 15 minutes before serving.
(for the salad) Slice the eggplant into pieces about 1cm thick. Cut the eggplant into long or diagonal slices (whatever is easy for you)
While the chicken is resting, splash some olive oil on the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Cook on the BBQ a few minutes each side, until they are tender and you have nice grill marks on the vegetables.
Remove from the heat and just before serving, toss through the tomato, parsley, balsamic, olive oil and season generously. Serve with the chicken.

*To prepare the preserved lemon: With a teaspoon, gently scrape the flesh and the soft pith away from the rind - it will come away very easily. Disgard this. Rinse the remaining lemon rind with water to remove the salt that it has been preserved in. Chop the rind very small and then using the flat side of your knife, squash the rind until it is a smooth puree.

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