Every summer, I make a genuine effort to grill more (well, I have genuine intentions). There really is nothing that reeks, literally, more of the season than taking a hunk of raw meat, rubbing a medley of spices on it or letting it take a swim in an easy marinade, and throwing it over searing hot coals. Cooking over an open fire momentarily revives the primeval lifestyle of us human beings, the last true holdover from much simpler times…but herein lies a problem. WE HAVE TO MAKE A FIRE. Thank the gods I didn’t live way back when, when starting a fire was a daily necessity to keep you warm, clean and fed. Confession: In my entire life I have never successfully started a charcoal fire – it’s embarrassing, I know. I sometimes long for the convenience of a gas grill, but there is something much purer about a charcoal grill; plus, with its round dome and tripod legs, our little contraption looks like a cute little robot.
Grilling is indeed a smelly, messy, sweaty sport – probably why men love to grill. I, Jane, marinate the carne asada; you, Tarzan, ignite the fire thingey. (Yeah, right.) I also never understood why anyone would choose to cook outside just because it’s a hot day. If it’s too hot to turn the stove on INSIDE the house, then sure as taxes it’s gonna be even hotter outside. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s that just we odd birds don’t have real air conditioning in the house.
Anyway, I recently ran across a recipe for Charcoal-Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Chipotle, Honey & Lime on the Cooks Illlustrated website that looked so fantastically delicious, with minimal ingredients. However, the fact that the instructions required that a whole chicken be butterflied, then brined, and then grilled under the weight of two bricks almost had me running for the hills. More confessions: I’ve always been squeamish about handling raw chicken, or any raw meat for that matter; brining just seemed excessive to me (wouldn’t it make the turkey/chicken unbearably salty?); and bricks? They’re not just layin’ around the kitchen, you know.
Fortunately, along with the eagerness to grill more came courage to conquer my hangups and face new food frontiers: in recent months I have found that hacking away at a whole chicken is somehow therapeutic (I know, it’s twisted), not to mention economical; brining for this recipe was totally easy-peasy once I convinced myself that most of the salt would remain outside the bird (plus, I give special thanks to gallon-size ziploc bags); and the bricks? Well, I left that up to Housemate J. and he just dug them out of the yard (remnants from a failed bomb shelter? We live in a very old house). The result of this culinary bravery and our caveman cravings was a superb little bird – juicy, spicy, and flavorful with the always pleasing trademark grill stripes painted across its puckered skin. I will definitely do this all again. Maybe I’ll even try to light the fire myself next time…