Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mesquite Smoked Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo Salad

Barbecues are so fun! As we know from the steak post, I have been grilling up a storm this summer. But a person can’t eat red meat and blue cheese every single day of their life, because that’s just pure self-indulgence! 

            I decided to try a smoked chicken recipe today. I chose mesquite wood, to bring me back to my Arizona days, but you can also do hickory, apple, or cedar. Our menu is mesquite-grilled chicken with roasted tomatillo salad and the Costa Rican rice that was posted a few days ago. This menu is definitely worth the trouble I took to find the ingredients.

            The first thing you need is wood chips. Canadian Tire had a great selection, although the fellow who helped me wasn’t particularly informed. I asked if I could put my tinfoil packet of wood chips on the grill, and he didn’t feel that would work. When I asked if I could put the tinfoil packet on heat element underneath the grill, he said he “didn’t think that would be a good idea AT ALL.” Well, too bad for him, because he did not provide a solution besides buying coals for my barbecue, but that seemed like far too much work, so I just experimented and it turned out fine to put the chips on the grill next to the chicken.

            Next I had to go to the grocery store to get the rest of the ingredients. The tomatillos completely puzzled the teenage girl working at the cash. She pulled one out of the bag and said, “What the heck is this?” in a tone only 16-year-old girls are capable of. Just before I could answer, the other teenage girl at the next cash said it was a fig. “No, it is not a fig,” I said. I told her what it was and had to spell it twice. “Oh right! Oh my Godddd, those things are SO annoying. They come through my cash all the time, and I never know the code, ha-ha!” Sure, blame it on the tomatillos.  

            At this point, madness ensues because my cashier can’t find them in the computer. So yet another teenager comes over and tells her it’s the code 4601. Fiddleheads come up. “Is it also called a ‘fiddlehead’?” she asks me.

“No. A fiddlehead is a fern that hasn’t unfurled yet,” I say.

“Oh. Well. I don’t know the code for it, so…” she says, as though I’m just going to say, “Oh well, to hell with the tomatillos then!” and put them back.

Clearly I’m more determined than she presumed, because then I said, “Oh. Well. I want them, so…” as in, “Find the damn code, Cookie.” All of a sudden the cash becomes the OK Corral, as we find ourselves in a standoff. The woman behind me starts huffing so loudly I thought she was having an asthma attack. But it wasn’t my fault Loblaws stocks tomatillos and then doesn’t tell the staff where to find the code.

            Luckily, the teenage boy had enough energy to run over to the tomatillo area and come back with the code, just in time for the woman behind me to leave my cash and go directly behind someone who must have been on Extreme Couponing, what with all the goods in her cart. Peace was restored though when the code is in fact 4801, and they are as cheap as dirt. I walk away from the ‘Blaws feeling jubilant about this delightful dinner.

            Now, there is no better way to make your neighbours than to smoke delicious foods. I even invited mine to dinner so as not to make them feel badly. To make the smoking last though, and to lessen the chances of burning down your house, (and everyone else’s, in my case, because all the houses connect) you must soak your wood chips in water for about half an hour first (or however long it says on the bag of wood chips).

            Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Even before you soak your chips, you may want to make a homemade barbecue sauce, because you’re jazzy like that. I used the recipe I found here and it was delish. However, I doubled all the spices because I found it didn’t have enough heat. This is what I did:

·      1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
·      2 tsp. olive oil or canola oil
·      2 tbsp. chili powder
·      2 tsp. paprika
·      2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
·      2 tsp. crushed red pepper
·      1/2 tsp. salt (I have a smoked sea salt, which I used, but regular salt is fine)
·      4 tbsp. cider vinegar
·      1 tsp. black pepper
·      1 tsp. garlic powder
·      1 tsp. prepared mustard
·      1 finely minced onion

The earlier you make this sauce, the more time it has for the flavours to blend and become delicious. It only takes five minutes to make, so do it as early as you can and then just keep it in the fridge.

When your sauce is made, and your chips have soaked, fire up the grill. Place the chips in a package made of tinfoil, and poke some holes in the top for the smoke to escape. Season your chicken with salt, pepper and maybe a little paprika. Place the chips package before the chicken on the grill to give them time to start smoking. If your barbecue is fancier than mine, crank the heat under the wood chips, but keep your chicken at medium. Cook for 25 minutes with the lid closed. Baste with your homemade sauce every 6 minutes or so. Do this quickly though so not all the smoke escapes!

For your roasted tomatillos, all you need is tomatillos (2/person) a few shallots and a couple of cherry tomatoes. I like to use the colourful tomatoes because they just look pretty. Put these on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Roast at 375° for 15 minutes or until the tomatillos are soft. You can serve this on its own or on a bed of arugula. Use the roasting pan drippings as the salad dressing.  

And that is all. My godson at this last night for dinner and after the first bite of rice he said, “Mmmmm. Tastes like Mexican!” which was hilarious because he is three and that was a pretty detailed food review for a three year old. But as you can see, it was a crowd pleaser all around! 

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