Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vacation Barbecue

Tonight we are celebrating a number of things.  First, vacation! It's only the first day, and having a whole week off stretching ahead of us is a great feeling. 

Second, today is the date that I set randomly in my head back in December as the day that I make my blog public.  By public, I mean that I will post it on Facebook.  I have literally not even told my best friends about it, and basically my only readers are my mom, my aunts, Laura, and Anne!  I did not set out to make a blog that was interesting reading for others; the point of it was to create a list of the foods that I tried to make this year, along  with what went well (focaccia, stuffed shells, caramels) and what went not so well (ricotta gnocchi, beer bread).  It's more for me than anyone, but I understand that people who have a love for cooking like I do might be interested in checking it out. And by the way, if you told me back in December that I would have a love for cooking in 4 months, I would have laughed at you!  So hey, maybe reading about my enormous transformation will get some of my friends pumped about kneading bread dough, and then it will be worth it if I make myself look like a bit of a dork :)

So back to the celebratory dinner.  I was planning on making sweet potato veggie burgers.  I loathe burgers, and yet my family makes them often, so I am trying to find a good alternative.  I love sweet potatoes and cannellini beans, which get mashed together to make these burgers, so I figured it was a pretty good idea.  They were fairly easy to make: bake the potatoes, mash them with the beans, add the flavorings, roll in panko crumbs, and saute in safflower oil.  They taste absolutely fabulous, if I do say so myself.  I love the mix of the potato, beans, and the maple syrup and tahini!  It's such an interesting combination of flavor.  Allie, Kenzie, Mom, and I all ate one (and Nick even took a bite, which is impressive since he refuses anything healthy/made of vegetables).  I stuck fairly closely to the recipe, except I used 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes instead of 1 large, and I had no lemon pepper seasoning, so I just added 1 lemon's zest, pepper, and salt.  Mmmmmmmm!  Mom even asked if I will make them again - which she doesn't always do, so we have success.

Of course, my family can never be content with vegetarian meals, so they bought chicken to grill.  I decided to help out a little and make a barbecue sauce from my good old Food Network magazine.  The recipe calls for chicken  quarters, which for the record makes me sick to think about a chicken being quartered (wasn't that a Revolutionary War-era type of torture?!) , but Kenzie had bought chicken breast and I figured it would be close enough.  After a run to the liquor store for ginger beer, I was ready to try out grilled ginger-beer chicken.  We cut the recipe in half, since we only had about 3 pounds of chicken. What I can say about this recipe is that you'd better plan ahead; the sauce takes a very long time to make, but is very worth it.  The ginger beer gets boiled for 30 minutes, then you steep tea bags in it for 10 (I know, weird combination of flavors but it works!).  Once the other ingredients have been added (ranging from brown sugar to diced tomatoes to Worcestershire sauce), you boil it for 50 minutes to cook it down.  Oh, and I should mention that the chicken should marinate in ginger, salt and pepper for two hours before that!!!  We sort of didn't wait that full amount of time, but the sauce made up for it.  It was absolutely amazing.  There is a lot going on in this sauce; there are all sorts of complex flavors that just work together wonderfully.  It's a big compliment when Nick not only grills the chicken with it, he schlepps it all over his entire plate!  I am not big on barbecue sauce, and even I loved it.  Big thanks to Allie for helping me out with it while I worked on my potato burgers. 
My delicious plate (minus Allie's potatoes... they hadn't been passed to me yet :) )

In addition, Mom sauteed some asparagus in the extra sauce, Allie made amazing pesto potatoes, and we had a salad.  It was a regular summertime celebration barbecue!  I hope that, if you are new to Bridget's Year of Cooking, you find an interesting recipe to try this week... and that you don't think I am too much of a dork :)

Sweet potato veggie burgers

Grilled ginger-beer chicken
from the May 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine

6 chicken quarters (4  - 4 1/2 pounds) (.... or chicken breasts if quartering sounds like a 1700s torture)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
6  12-ounce bottles ginger beer
6 black tea bags
3/4 cup minced onion
1  28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
12 sprigs thyme
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (we used olive oil)

1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry.  Toss the ginger with 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Sprinkle half of the mixture on the chicken; reserve the rest.  Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, at least 2 hours (but it is not the end of the world if you can't wait that long!)

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: pour the ginger beer into a wide skillet; cover and bring to a boil.  Uncover and cook over high heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, and steep 10 minutes; discard the tea bags.  Add the onion, tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and thyme.  Return to high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 50 minutes.  Use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes during the last 5 minutes.  Remove the thyme.  Set aside half of the sauce for serving.

3.  Bring the chicken to room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling (or not).  Preheat a grill to medium with indirect heat: on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side; on a gas grill, turn off half of the burners. 

4.  Brush the chicken with some of the butter (or olive oil to be slightly healthier) and sprinkle with some of the remaining ground ginger mixture.  Place skin-side up (gross) on the cooler side of the grill ; cover and cook until it starts browning, about 18 minutes, basting with more butter and sprinkling with more ground ginger mixture halfway through.  Brush the chicken with a thick layer of sauce.  Cover and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160 degrees, about 20 minutes, basting with more sauce halfway through.

5.  Brush the chicken with more butter, then turn skin-side down and place on the hotter side of the grill (over direct heat).  Cook, uncovered, until marked, about 2 minutes.  Rotate the chicken to make crisscross grill marks and cook 2 more minutes.  Transfer to a board and let rest about 10 minutes. Season with salt and serve with the reserved sauce.

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