Monday, 15 June 2009

Getting better @ Que: Husker Chicken and Sweet Potato Coins

Oh man, I am loving 2009, culinarily speaking. Why? Cooking on the BBQ Pit. Yes, I cooked on the grill last year when I first arrived to Ottawa, but this year is different. My education is booming.

I grew up with my Pa' cooking on a gas grill, with Kraft sauces and calling that BBQ. It was good, but I didn't know better. Then I lived in downtown Toronto with no grilling access. When I arrived in O-Town, I finally could cook with charcoal on my own. I learned from the Food Network and trial and error. Oh man there were trials and tribulations. But things got better.

This year, I've been following 'real people'. DivaQ, Chris @ Nibble Me This, and most recently JB to name a few. I learned that its not just about heat and cooking. And I've noticed a big change in my food lately. Last week I made what I call 'Husker' Chicken. Husker, for those not in the know, was the call sign for William Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I didn't name it in honour of him, but the flavour of the chicken was kind of, husky, smokey and had authority which reminded me of him.

Anyways, this chicken breast came out so good, it really made me reflect on the things that I have learned that made it taste so much better. And here's why, in bullet form:

  • When I was away for 3 weeks, LJ bought some Kingsford Charwood charcoal. I normally bought the cheapest briquettes because, well I was cheap. I can't go back. The Charwood is so much better and I prefer the smokey taste it creates compared to the old briquettes.
  • I stopped using lighter fluid and finally figured out how to successfully use my DIY Charcoal Chimney Starter. I have hot coals in a fraction of the time. Goodbye chemical heat.
  • I used a brine on the chicken breast. Last year I did not believe this really did anything. Now I know better. My brine was really weak on adding any flavour, but the breast meat was so moist I know it made a difference.
  • The Rub: nothing new here, but it was flavourful.
  • Understanding the heat: I can't control the heat on the BBQ pit (there's no vents, no lid, there's not even 4 walls) but I have learned how to use what I do have. The charcoal burns hot, so I put them on direct heat just to give a crisp to the skin and outside, then moved them to the outside of the grill to get away from the charcoal. This allowed the poultry to cook on indirect heat.
  • Sauce: It wasn't homemade exactly, but I combined a few condiment sauces with a spice mixture that made for a great taste.
  • Applying the Sauce: Done in the last staging of the grilling to prevent the sugars of the sauce from burning.
  • Resting: I can't help but do this, because we weren't eating on the patio, so the 5 minute trip after cleaning the grill, going through 2 sets of doors, an elevator ride, then getting the table ready means whatever I cook is going to rest and the juices redistribute.

This may seem simple and straightforward to some, but for me its all new. It is really simple when you think it all through and work the science into the art.

But enough philosophy, lets get to what you all came to see: Hard Core Chicken. I'm not really doing a recipe here, just showing some food porn.

Chicken breast bought on sale, bone in and skin on. They were put in a simple brine for about an hour or so. Then, hand rubbed in a wet rub for at least another hour. Then onto the grill.

Here the chicken is cooking with the 'in-direct' heat. Ok not really indirect, but you have to understand that I'm using a building public grill and I have to carry all my food and equipment every time I cook. The only tools provided is a grill scraper for cleaning. There is an abandoned small saw blade which is used to move the charcoal around. That's right, I have to use an abandoned saw blade to move the charcoal.

Fast forward in time to near the end of grilling and the applying of the BBQ Sauce. You can kind of see how the coals were scrapped to the far left to create the indirect heating.

I like taking pictures from below the grill. That is all.

That is just beautiful to me. I love saucy chicken.

The same.

Oh ya, I made some sweet potato coins. Just cut, tossed with salt and pepper and oil. They charred a little (others more so). See, very quickly, the charcoal burned hot. REALLY hot. It was so hot that my stomach started to burn. It was then I realized I had a slinky in the front pocket of my apron (long story) and it conducted the heat like an oven element. Wowzers. Anyway, I had problems flipping the coins and couldn't save them all.

The finished product. I started out with a fork and knife, but honestly, I abandoned that within a minute of sitting down and went for the hands. The only REAL way to eat chicken from the grill.

If you look at that picture, you can see flavour in many forms:
  1. The sauce itself
  2. The spices (see the little flecks?)
  3. The crispy skin

LJ really liked this too. She was really impressed how moist the white meat was, but that the skin was still crispy. Welcome to flavour country.

I'm not trying to say I'm an amazing cook or how awesome I am (you already know that :p) but I feel like I just got my first A of the season. This summer you will probably see most posts on grilling and BBQ as I learn more and want to share what I've learned.

Like my quest to educate people about Chicken Wings and the proper language, the general public here in Ontario (and elsewhere I'm sure) are uneducated to what BBQ means. The culinary zeitgeist, on TV, in print, on the Net seems to all be turning to the BBQ and I'm swept up in it, as best I can, with what I have.

To culinary truth!
So Say We All!


Teena in Toronto said...

The chicken looks delish!

I'll pass on the sweet potatoes, though.

Lord of the Wings said...

Teena- I've been trying sweet potato in wedge form and coin form, baked and grilled. I think I really only like it shoestring fried.

Chris said...

Hell yeah! Rock on LOTW, that looks great! You're spot on about the brine too. I'm not sure how much flavor mine imparts but the juiciness is inarguable and undeniable.

If you like charwood (I used it all weekend), keep an eye out for Full Circle brand lump. Same price here, but somewhat better charcoal.

Thanks for the link. I've been busy all week (had a buddy here from Florida and am just now blogging). Funny thing is, I linked you in a post that I started on Wednesday or Thursday but just put up today.

Lord of the Wings said...

Chris - Thanks for the charwood tip. My selection up here is really limited, but I will keep an eye open.