Peruvian Grilled Chicken

There’s nothing I love more than grilling a whole chicken. It’s perfect for cook once, eat twice or more weekend meals. It’s perfect for sharing when we’re entertaining. This has been our go-to chicken recipe and we’re not sick of it yet. The smell of it on the grill will make you wait in keen anticipation. And the flavor – the mix of spices and grill flavor – is absolutely delicious.

Our preferred whole bird preparation is to spatchcock. It sounds more intimidating than it actually is. It’s really just butterflying the chicken it rests flat on the grill, allowing it to cook evenly (and faster). Turn the bird so its back (the side that’s connected to the tail) is facing up (meaning breast side is on the cutting board) and use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the back from the tail to the neck. You’ve just cut out the chicken’s back. Then flip the bird over and flatten the breast with the heel of your hand. That’s it!

After spatchcocking, I separate the skin from the meat so I can spread the rub paste all over the bird. Then I let it sit in the fridge for 24-36 hours before grilling.

For the paste, I recommend using dried/powdered (but still fresh in flavor) ingredients. All of the flavor will come through these dried ingredients so getting the most flavorful ones will go a long way.

Ingredients
  • 4 lb. chicken, spatchcocked, skin loosely separated from meat
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbl cumin
  • 1 tbl paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl white vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon (approx. 2-3 tbl for a medium lemon)
Directions
  1. Mix together ingredients to form a paste. Rub into meat underneath the skin and on the skin. Marinate up to 36 hours.
  2. Preheat gas grill on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn grill to low and place chicken skin side up on the direct heat. Leave it on the grill for 30 minutes.
  4. Flip the chicken so that the skin side is down. Leave it on the grill for another 30 minutes.
Notes
  • If you don’t have lemon on hand but you do have white wine, you can substitute lemon for wine one-to-one.
  • Here are the ingredients that I especially like for the garlic, paprika and black pepper:

Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash and Cranberries with Couscous

The days are getting cooler and closer to my favorite temperature for running outside. I can almost feel Fall slowly bleeding into the trees in Central Park and gradually turning their leaves red and orange. Early Fall is definitely one of my favorite seasons. It’s perfect for outdoor adventures…and breaking out the equestrian boots. Food wise, early Fall is the great in-between where there are still remnants of light, late Summer produce but the slower-cooking, heartier dishes are making their way onto the stovetop.

At the farmer’s market in Union Square, we’re seeing the first signs of Fall: pears, broccoli, brussel sprouts, apples and squashes like butternut and acorn were all spotted last week. Sometimes I feel Summer is too fast-paced – we’re always on the go, traveling, and soaking in the sun. But as the days get shorter, we slow down and prepare for winter. We dust off the slow cooker and Dutch oven. Braising is the method of cooking that is synonymous with Fall. And it’s exactly what I did here. The sweet and savory flavor of the sage infused with the chicken while the flour thickened the broth that boiled down and became a sweet and nutty sauce from the butternut squash and cranberries. Even the colors of the dish look like Fall. This is definitely starting the season right.

Directions

  1.  In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over high heat.
  2. Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook chicken thighs, skin side down, until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from pot and transfer to a plate.
  5. Pour off some fat from the pot but leaving about 1 -2 tablespoons in it.
  6. Add to the pot the butternut squash and onion.
  7. Cook until they start to become soft, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add sage, flour, coriander and nutmeg. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add in broth and stir to pick up the browned bits at the bottom of the pot, about 1 minute.
  10. Nestle chicken, skin side up, in the pot and sprinkle in the cranberries.
  11. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce heat so that it becomes a simmer.
  12. Partially cover and simmer chicken until cooked through and squash is tender, about 25 minutes.
  13. Serve with couscous cooked according to package instructions.

Herb Roasted Chicken

Simple and classically delicious. The roast chicken should be in everyone’s repertoire. What else do I need to say? So today, I’m just sticking to the basics: the recipe and some tips. Roast chicken is deceptively easy to make. But the key word here is “deceptively.”

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that I have a “My tips for this dish” section. They’re the notes that I thought of about ingredient sourcing, preparation and/or difficulties while making the actual dish. They’re in the trenches tips from someone who has been there. Take it or leave it, they’re just notes on my experience. Usually, this comes after the recipe. But in this case, I’m going to put it first. That’s how important these tips are to the success of the dish. Take them.

Directions

  1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken, inside and out.
  2. Bring the chicken to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  4. Generously season the cavity with pepper, salt and herbs.
  5. Stuff the cavity with some onion wedges and carrots. Don’t overstuff so that it will not be able to be trussed. If there are left over onion and carrot pieces, scatter them around the chicken on the pan.
  6. Truss the chicken.
  7. Liberally season the outside of the chicken with salt, pepper and herbs.
  8. Place the chicken into a cast iron skillet or pan.
  9. Roast until done, about 50-60min or until the temperature of the thigh registers 150-165F using a meat thermometer.
  10. Allot the chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Cover it with foil to keep warm.
  11. Serve with pan drippings.

Cook’s Notes

The difference between a soggy-skinned, and dry roast chicken and a deliciously crispy skinned, moist bird? The temperature of the chicken before it’s put into the oven. You must (1) pat dry the skin of the chicken inside and out and (2) temper the chicken, meaning bring it to room temperature, before it’s roasted. Why these two steps? (1) Drying the skin removes excess moisture that will cause the skin to be soft and soggy. (2) If you place the chicken directly from the fridge into the preheated oven, the oven for at least half of the roasting time is simply trying to bring up the temperature of the cold bird. Roasting it this way will cause the meat to cook unevenly. Some parts will cook faster than others. Your chicken will be dry. For a small bird, tempering will take 45min – 1 hour. So plan ahead. If there is anything you remember from this post, remember these two tips.

Sea salt (versus table salt) works better in achieving a crispy skin. Don’t be afraid to salt liberally. In the pictures, you can see the pieces of sea salt. I used a lot. I used about 1 tablespoon. When salting, rain the salt over the bird. If you pinch the salt when salting, it will cause some of the salt pieces to stick together. Raining it helps it separate as it falls. It will create a nice, even layer of salt over the skin.

It’s not the end of your dish if you forget to truss the bird. But it trussing it makes the meat more compact and allows it to cook more evenly. Presentation-wise, you get bonus points. And it can also make carving easier. How to truss a bird? You’ll need a few feet of kitchen twine (3-4 times the length of the bird) first. Steps? (1) With the breast-side up and tail/drumsticks pointing toward you, hold one end of twine in each hand, center the twine and run the mid-point under the neck of the chicken and pass it over the crevice of the drumstick (where the drumstick meets the body) and then pass each end of the twine under the bone area of the drumstick. (2) Cross the ends of the twine and pull so that the drumsticks pull together tightly. (3) Keeping the legs pulled tightly together, wrap one end of the twine all the way around the tail end and tie securely with the other end of the twine. (4) Snip off any long ends. Remember to truss the bird after you have stuffed it.

When it’s roasting in the oven, I leave it alone. I don’t baste it or put butter under the skin. These actions create steam, which I don’t want. The skin will absorb the steam and moisture and become soggy. I want the oven to stay dry so that the skin can get crispy. If you do it right, you don’t need basting and buttering to make the meat moist.

Remember to save the carcass of the roasted bird! It’s great for making chicken stock. It’s even better if you leave some meat on the bone. The day after, I made chicken soup using the carcass and some reserved meat.

As reference, the bird I made was 3.29 lb. and roasted for 50-55min. 

Steamed Turkey Baozi

Baozi is part of Chinese cuisine and generally refers to a type of steamed, filled bun. The kind you’re probably most familiar with is the roasted pork buns (cha siu bao) commonly found in Chinatowns. Soup dumplings are another kind of bao, called xiaolongbao. As you can tell, the word bao in these names denote that they are a type of steamed and filled bun. You have to try these! They’re quite delicious! I love biting into one of these – you get the texture of the soft, pillowy steamed bun that has been infused with the flavor of the meat during the steaming process. And along with this bite, you get a part of the filling that’s moist, flavorful and savory.

The dough for baozi is the same as the kind used for mantou, which I wrote about when I made Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Chicken Mantou Sandwiches. It’s a simple dough of just flour, water, sugar (optional), salt and yeast. The filling is traditionally ground pork, but I use turkey (sometimes a mixture of turkey and pork) because it’s leaner. The other ingredients in the filling is similar to what you put into meatballs, bread crumbs, egg and some broth. These additions make the filling moist and allow the flavor to get steamed into the dough. Yum! The other filling ingredients that make the dish traditionally Chinese include chives and spring onions. You can be creative with the filling ingredients! Large pieces of chopped shrimp can be added into the filling. And there are dessert versions of baozi, which have sweet bean paste, black sesame paste or lotus seed paste as the filling. While baozi can be eaten throughout the day, they’re most often eaten for breakfast in China. I’ll eat them for breakfast, lunch (and snack!), and dinner any day.

Directions

-For the Dough-

  1. Dissolve the sugar into the water.
  2. Add in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix together flour and salt.
  4. Pour in yeast mixture and stir together.
  5. Knead to form a soft dough.
  6. Put dough in a bowl and cover with saran wrap or a lid.
  7. Let rise 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until it about doubles.
  8. If using a bread machine, put all the ingredients into the insert and set on basic dough cycle.
  9. Once the dough finishes rising, punch down and knead for about 5 minutes.
  10. Roll the dough into a log shape and divide into 16 equal pieces. Set aside.

-For the Filling-

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filling.
  2. Roughly divide the filling into 16 portions so each baozi has equal filling.

-For the Assembly-

  1. Take a piece of dough and flatten to a round about 4″ in diameter. Make sure that the outer rim is a bit thinner than the rest of the round since the middle area needs to be thick enough to hold the filling without ripping.
  2. Cup the round in your hand and scoop a portion of the filling into the center of the dough.
  3. Bring together the edges of the round and pinch together at the top to make the baozi shape.
  4. Place each shaped baozi on a piece of cut parchment paper. This will keep it from sticking to the bottom of the steamer basket.
  5. Place the baozi in the steamer baskets a few inches apart from each other.
  6. Cover and let rise 45 min.

-For the Steaming-

  1. Add water to the steamer stack and steam 20 minutes.
  2. After the stove is turned off, let baozi sit in steamer covered for about 5 minutes so the steam can dissipate gradually. If the cover is immediately lifted after cooking, the quick escape of steam can cause the baozi to collapse.

Cook’s Notes

I like to eat baozi with some dipping sauce. I typically mix in some chili (sriracha) with some Chinese black vinegar.

Ground turkey is lean so the filling will be more dry than if you use pork. For a good in-between, you can mix these two types of ground meat.

To reheat leftover baozi, place a damp paper towel over one bun and microwave for 45 seconds. You can also reheat the leftover baozi by pan-heating (pan-frying) them in a bit of oil. This gives it a nice crunchy crust on the outside, like you get in fried dumplings. If you don’t want to use that much oil in the reheating process, first reheat in the microwave and finish on a lightly seasoned (or dry) pan just to harden the outside a bit.

Spicy Asian Marinated Chicken Thighs

I’m not a huge fan of just eating a roasted chicken. Sure, if you roast it and use the meat in other dishes like soup, pizza, etc. then yeah, it’s good. But if I’m just reaching for a piece of meat, I like mine marinated. And preferably for 24 hours. Marinating meat is a great way to infuse it with flavor and to tenderize it. Plus, it’s pretty hard to mess up.

So what goes into a marinade? Three ingredients: (1) a fat, usually oil; (2) an acid, for example, vinegar, wine or citrus; and (3) flavorings, usually spices, herbs and garlic. Proportionally, since the base of the marinade should be the oil, the mixture should be about 2/3 oil to 1/3 acid. Keep in mind that the acids work to tenderize the meat by denaturing proteins. Marinades that contain a lot of acid, like citrus juice (zest is okay) or vinegar, should only be used for a few hours since it will start to chemically cook the meat.

To store marinated meat, use a non-reactive container (no metal!). Plastic tupperware and ceramic dishes are good choices. I like using a ziploc bag since it’s easy to mix and turn the meat, ensuring all surfaces get coated. I place the bag in either a container or just double bag in case of leaks.

Cook the marinated meat as you would regular meat; but, discard the marinade since the raw meat juices get mixed in with it. If you want some extra marinade to drizzle over the finished product, reserve some at the very beginning before you start marinating.

Directions

  1. Stir together all the marinade ingredients.
  2. In a small container, reserve and refrigerate 3 tablespoons of the marinade to drizzle over the cooked chicken.
  3. Wash the chicken thighs and pat dry with a towel.
  4. Place the thighs in either a container with lid or large ziploc bag.
  5. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and mix well.
  6. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
  7. To broil the chicken, adjust the oven rack to the top third, about 8 inches from the top heating element.
  8. Place thighs skin side down on a broiling pan.
  9. Broil, 16 – 18 minutes.
  10. Flip the thighs so the skin side is up.
  11. Broil, 12 – 14 minutes.
  12. Serve with the reserved 3 tablespoons of marinade.

Cook’s Notes

Since I don’t have a grill, broiling is great alternative. Grilling is cooking the meat from the bottom up and broiling is basically cooking it from the top down. You need to use a broiling pan and place the oven rack about 5 -8 inches from the top heating element. If there is skin on the meat, I broil skin side down first for a longer period of time and then flip over to finish it up since the skin can burn easily.

If you don’t want to broil, you can bake it at 375F for about 35 minutes. Reduce the cooking time if the chicken thighs are boneless.

This marinade also is great with other types of meat like beef and shrimp.