Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!


In the good ol' summertime I find people don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But for those of us who have to get food on the table for a family and "convenience" foods aren't so convenient due to food allergies/sensitivities, we need ideas for fuss free meals. I find grilling a great option.  So we've been grilling a few times a week this summer. But how do you beat the boredom of burgers and hot dogs all the time without a big fuss? For me it was learning the proper technique for making barbecued chicken. I grew up knowing that barbecued chicken meant a piece of meat charred black on the outside and near raw in the middle. But thanks to Cook's Country magazine I have learned the technique of cooking grilled chicken in indirect heat. What that means is having one burner on higher heat, usually the middle burner, and the side burners on low, then cooking the chicken on low. I've done it with whole chickens, "beer can" style, chicken pieces, and now a butterflied chicken. I've also learned that barbecued chicken doesn't have to mean a drippy, sweet sauce. After discovering the flavorful, crispy skinned wonders of the dry rub I was hooked.

Last night I made an herb rubbed chicken (with oil, so technically not a dry rub), that I prepped in the morning and let sit all day to marinate. When I ran in with the kids close to dinnertime,  I just fired up the grill and popped on the chicken, no muss, no fuss. With this technique there's not much to tending the chicken either, just pop, on close lid and turn after an hour. The result was the moistest barbecue chicken with the crispiest skin I ever had. My husband told me that it was on par with the chicken served at our favorite steakhouse. I was swooning!


I "eyeball" the amounts for the rub on this recipe, so you can add a bit more or less of the spices you like. Try other flavor combinations like Cajun, Indian, hot n' spicy or herbs d'provence. Fresh herbs may be used instead of dry.

Grilled Olive Oil and Herb Chicken

1 whole chicken, medium size 
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 Tablespoon dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon onion powdersalt and black pepper to taste
Rinse and pat dry chicken. With kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut chicken along back bone. Lay chicken flat and press down on breast bones to flatten more.

Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over chicken, inside and out. Place chicken in a 1-gallon zip top plastic bag. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
Heat all burners on gas grill on high for 15 minutes. For one chicken, turn 1 burner on the end to low, the one next to it to medium and all other burners off. If you are grilling two chickens on a 3 burner grill, leave middle burner on medium, and side burners on low. You must maintain a grill heat of 350-375F degrees with lid closed, so you may have to reduce medium burner as well.
Place chicken skin side down over the low burner side of grill with legs closer to the medium burner. Close lid. Grill for about 1 hour, or until the thigh meat is 160F degrees. Flip chicken over and put over medium burner for 10-15 minutes. When done, thigh meat should register 175F degrees, and breast meat should be 160F degrees. Transfer to a tray and tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve warm.

Yield: 4-6 servings

For an easy and elegant "no bake" dessert, try this chocolate pie which comes together in about 15 minutes. You can use ready made whipped topping, or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to cut the richness of the pie.

Vegan Mocha Truffle Pie

For crust:
2 dozen (approximately) gluten free cookies such as shortbread, grahams or sandwich cookies (I used 1 box of Jo-Sef brand Sandwich O's)
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)

For filling:
1-14 ounce can coconut milk (not low fat)
10-12 ounce bag semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated instant coffee powder
2 Tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
2-8 ounce containers non-dairy whipped topping (such as Rich's Whip or Mimic Creme)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Spray a 9-10-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a food processor fitted with a knife blade, process cookies until fine crumbs form. In a medium sized microwave safe bowl, heat 1/4 cup margarine on high for 1-2 minutes, until melted. Pour cookie crumbs over margarine; stir together until crumbs are totally coated with margarine (you may use your impeccably clean hands for this). Place in refrigerator while preparing filling.

In a medium sized microwave safe bowl, combine coconut milk, chocolate, coffee powder and 2 Tablespoon margarine. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. If chocolate retains its shape, return to microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Stir until mixture appears silky and is completely combined with no streaks of white on surface of mixture. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Pour cooled chocolate mixture into pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm. This may be done up to 3 days in advance.

In an electric mixture, beat together whipped topping and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, spread whipped topping over chilled pie, forming a mound in the middle. You may use half the amount of whipped topping for a flatter looking pie. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Optional garnish: Berries, chocolate curls or shavings, chocolate espresso beans,or dusting of cocoa powder.

Yield: 10 servings