When someone refers to Southwestern cooking, most people would immediately assume some version of Mexican cooking—New Mexican, Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex. Mexican dishes with an American influence—or vise versa. However, there were people and cooking going on in the Southwest long before the Spanish got there to influence the cuisine.
Jan visits her friends in Hopi on Third Mesa every few years. She usually brings something back for me, this time it was a couple of cookbooks. One of them was Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations. The recipes in this book are not “authentic Native American dishes,” but rather modern interpretations of native cuisine by Native American chefs.
I had decided to make Hopi beans and hominy, and Miriam asked me to make something more protein oriented—she and son-in-law Chris are back on a low carb/high protein diet. Jan wanted me to do something from this cookbook, and pointed out that the one for Marinated Grilled Quail could be made with chicken.
Working with a larger bird allowed me to use my preferred trick, of slipping much of the marinade under the skin so that it is in direct contact with the meat. Quail are tiny bird that you keep whole while grilling. With the problems I had last week with the Iraqi chicken, I quartered this bird to make it easier to turn on the grill.
Last week I had also left in many of the small bones on the breasts. While these bones protect the meat from over cooking, they made it difficult to cut the breast into portions. This time I remove the ribs and clavicle, coracoid and sternum.
One of the other things that Jan brought me was Navaho pine nuts. These come unshelled and are a bear to open without mashing the nut meat inside. You may substitute pignoli, but the pine nuts from the Southwest have a distinctive “piney” flavor that the commercial Italian pine nuts do not have.
Note: The final things Jan brought me was a bag of blue corn meal and another of culinary ash. Blue corn tortillas seemed an obvious side for this meal.
After Dinner Note: This was a very tasty dish, but I would add more greens the next time—seven ounces of spinach cooked down to almost nothing.
Karl’s Southwestern Indian Chicken
1½ Tbs. fresh sage, minced
1½ Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbs. rosemary, minced
1 serrano chili (about 1 Tbs.) , minced
1 Tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. California chile, powdered
1 tsp. Chipotle chile powder
1 tsp. black pepper, cracked
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. lemon Zest
5 Tbs. olive oil
1 chicken (3-5 lbs.)
2 Tbs. California chile powder
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup honey
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
7 oz. baby spinach (double this amount, if this is your only vegetables in the meal)
¼ cup Navaho pine nuts, toasted
1. Stack the sage leaves and slice them finely.
Tip: Measure the sage after you have cut the leaves into small bits.
2. Repeat this process with the parsley and rosemary.
3. Dice the Serrano chili, finely.
4. Pile the herbs and chili on a cutting mat and sprinkle the salt over them.
Tip: This is a American’s Test Kitchen trick. The salt brings out the moisture and oils of the herbs and make them stick together a bit. This keeps they from flying all over the place as you mince your herbs.
5. Slice your herbs until very finely minced.
6. Put the minced herbs in a bowl and add the chili powders, pepper, zest, and olive oil.
7. Mix the marinade well and let it meld as you prepare the chicken.
8. Remove the chicken’s back bone with kitchen shears.
Note: Cut along both sides of the back bone and reserve it for soup stock.
9. Cut the cartilage at the front end of the breastbone, to open up a gap.
10. Run your finger along both sides of the breast bone to separate the chicken meat from the bone.
11. Insert two finger along the bone at the top and pull up to remove the breast bone completely.
12. Use kitchen shears or a knife to divide the bird in half.
13. Use a sharp paring knife under the ribcage and scrape the meat from the bones, starting at the bottom working up toward the wings.
14. Up by the wings are two bones that make a “V.”
Note: These are the flat clavicle and the larger coracoid bones joined by some thick cartilage.
15. Twist the bones free from the wing bone—the humerus—and remove them.
Tip: You may need the point of the knife to cut the through the thick cartilage.
16. Separate the leg portions from the breasts.
Tip: Cut the skin so that the largest amount of skin stays with the breast.
Note: You will be using this skin to protect the meat and hold on the marinade while you are grilling.
17. Without tearing the skin, separate the skin from the breast and leg meat.
Tip: When I roast or barbecue chicken I always try to get as much of the spice under the skin and up against the meat as possible.
18. Rub the marinade over the meat and skin.
Tip: Pull the skin back over the meat to hold the marinade against the meat.
19. Place the chicken in a gallon plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate overnight.
Tip: Flip the bag once or twice while you are marinating the bird.
20. An hour before grilling, set the chicken on the counter to warm to room temperature.
Tip: Chicken cooks more evenly if it is not chilled from the refrigerator.
21. Start your coals for a charcoal grill or set all the burner of a gas grill to high.
22. Push your coals to one side of the grill to make a bi-level fire or turn the burners off on one side of the gas grill.
23. Place the chicken skin side down on the hot side of the grill, close the grill, and sear the bird for 8-10 minutes.
24. Flip the chicken halves and sear the second side for 8-10 minutes.
25. Transfer the halves, skin side up, to the cool side of the grill and insert a constant read thermometer and close the grill.
Tip: Set the thermometer to sound at 155º F.
26. Brush half of the glaze over the portions and reset the thermometer to 160º F.
27. When the chicken is done, transfer the chicken to a plate and tent it with foil.
28. The chicken’s interior temperature will rise to a safe 165º F during this rest.
29. While the bird is resting, put the last tablespoon of oil into a sauté pan over medium heat.
30. Sauté the garlic until fragrant, about one minute.
31. Add the baby spinach to the pan and sauté until wilted, 2-3 minutes.
32. Lay a bed of the greens on a serving platter.
33. Divide the chicken into servings and arrange the chicken pieces over the greens.
34. Brush the remaining glaze over the chicken.
35. Garnish with the pine nuts and serve the chicken warm.