One of the challenges of writing this blog is constantly looking for/creating new recipes. I have given myself a wide latitude—the whole world of cooking and baking. Still the question comes down to: What am I going to make for dinner? For this Sunday’s dinner, I decided to do a barbecued chicken with French flavors with ratatouille and potatoes au gratin as my sides.
While I had heard of Herbes de Provence—the eponymous herb blend of Provence, a region of southeastern France—I have never used it in my own cooking. This blend usually contains savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Only in the US is lavender added to the mix—on the mistaken assumption that since Provence has all of those lavender fields it must be in their blend of herbs—the truth is that very little of that lavender is used for culinary purposes. In San Jose, the only brand of Herbes de Provence that I could find without lavender was McCormack.
This month’s Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for whole barbecued chicken. While I personally would never struggle trying to barbecue a whole uncut chicken, they used one technique that I found interesting. To reduce the fat dripping into the flames—which would cause flare-ups that would singe and blacken the skin—they started roasting the chicken on the cool side of a bi-level fire. Only after much of the fat had been rendered did they move the bird to the hot side of the grill—to crisp up the skin. With the delicate herbs that I planned to use on the outside of my chicken, this seemed like a technique to try.
Karl’s Barbecued Chicken Provencal
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs.)
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper, cracked
3 Tbs. butter, melted
3 Tbs. olive oil
1½ Tbs. Herbes de Provence
Note: Start this process the night before or at least four hours prior to start cooking.
1. Cut the chicken into four pieces.
Tip: Remove the backbone and wing tips. Separate the breast and legs. Starting from the inside of the bird, divide the breasts in half cutting through the keel bone and cartilage along the center line. Pull the skin away from the meat, but leave it attached, if you can.
Note: Frequently for a dish like this, I also remove the keel bone, ribs and any other bones that might pierce the marinade bag, but this time I left them in—to protect the meat on the grill. I did remove the ribs, because there is very little meat on them and the sharp edges tend to pierce the marinating bag.
2. Salt and pepper the meat and skin liberally.
Tip: Lightly prick the skin over the fatty deposits on the thighs and at the thick end of the breasts.
Note: This allows the render fat a way to escape and will give you a crisper skin.
3. Mix the melted butter, olive oil and herbes de Provence in a small bowl.
4. One piece at a time, put the chicken pieces in a sealable, gallon plastic bag brush the marinade under and over the skin.
5. Seal the bag and shake it gently to coat the outsides of the chicken.
6. Press the air out of the bag and seal it tightly.
7. Marinate the chicken for at least four hours in the refrigerator.
Tip: Overnight is better.
8. Set the chicken on the counter an hour before you plan to start cooking.
Tip: A room temperature bird cooks more evenly.
Note: Set the chicken on a lipped baking tray and pull the skin over to cover the meat. It may be necessary—especially on the breasts—to pin the skin down with toothpicks broken in half.
9. Build a bi-level fire in your barbecue.
Tip: For gas grills: Turn on all of the burners five minutes on their highest setting before cooking and then turn off one side.
10. Lay the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill.
Tip: Placement of your chicken pieces is important. The legs take longer to cook than the breasts and the thickest part of the breast takes longer than the thin trailing end. Even the cool side of the grill is hotter neat the hot side. Place the legs with the thighs closest to the heat with the leg portion pointes away. Place the breasts with the thick part toward the heat and the thin part as far as possible from the heat.
11. Insert a constant read thermometer into the breast—near the wing joint—and close the grill.
12. Set the thermometer alarm to 133º F.
Tip: As the fat and juices render from the chicken it will smoke as it hits the flame guards, but they will not ignite and flare up.
13. Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill—skin side down—and close the grill.
Tip: This should give you some good grill marks.
Note: Much of the fat will be rendered at this point, but there should still be enough to get some good smoky flavor without too many flare ups scorching the meat.
14. Reset the thermometer alarm to 155º F
15. After 5 minutes, check to see if the skin is golden brown.
Tip: If the skin is not done to your liking, give it another two minutes and check again.
16. Flip the chicken pieces—skin side up—and close the grill.
17. After 5 minutes, check to see if the bottom of the chicken pieces are burning.
Tip: If not, check them every two minutes until the alarm goes off.
Note: If the bottoms of the chicken is starting to singe, more the pieces to the cool side of the grill until they have reached 155º F.
18. When the alarm sounds, transfer the chicken to a plate and lightly tent with aluminum foil.
Tip: You want to keep the chicken covered, so that it will finish cooking, but you do not want to seal in the steam, which would make your skin soggy.
19. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes.
20. Cut the chicken pieces into portions and transfer them to a serving plate.
Note: I was using a very large chicken and I separated the leg from thigh and cut the thigh in half along the bone. I crosscut the breast into six pieces.