Here in the great northwest, our beloved Seahawks are, miracle of miracles, poised to play their third Super Bowl and first back-to-back appearance therein. I was born and raised in New England, so I'm kinda tied to both contestants. That said, I find Tom Brady insufferable and Belichick a troll, so…
If you've not settled on your fare for Da Big Game, consider this: If a nicely grilled chicken is a thing of beauty, then a brined, butterflied bird wins every pageant. Chicken on the grill is hugely popular for good reason, but it’s also a common victim of overcooking, which results in a stringy, dried out final product. A brined, whole chicken stays plump and juicy, even on outdoor cookers.
The process can easily be done between morning coffee and kick off. Here's how.
Purchase a local, whole, free range chicken; fresh and local beats frozen every time. Read this piece through, check your spice cabinet, and head to the seasoning section of your market for anything you don't have, including pickling or canning salt. This non-iodized version has a very fine grain and dissolves readily, even in cold water. Add to your list a local Pilsner, Chardonnay, or a sparkling cider as an accompaniment. Grab some hearts of romaine, some Champagne vinegar, a few lemons, some sharp Asiago cheese, some butter, fresh sourdough, and a head of garlic as well.
Start your brine with a gallon of fresh, cold water under 40° F.
Weigh and then stir in 10 ounces of salt; stir to thoroughly dissolve. Toss in,
Juice and zest from 1 small lemon
1 Tablespoon whole Pepper corns
1 teaspoon Sage
1 teaspoon Savory
3 Bay Leaves
Pull all the guts out of your chicken, then set the bird in a bowl large enough to handle it and enough brine to cover completely. Weight the bird with a plate to keep it submerged. Brine the bird in the fridge, (or outside if it's cold enough), for 2-3 hours.
Pull the chicken out and discards the brine.
Let the bird rest uncovered in the fridge for 1 hour. Prepare this citrus powered wet rub while your chicken is resting, so the flavors have time to marry.
1 Tablespoon black Pepper
1 teaspoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
1/2 teaspoon granulated Garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated Onion
1 Tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
Juice and zest of 1 small Lemon
Juice and zest of 1 small Lime
Making a chicken relatively flat is easy as all get out, and if, like Monica, (Sorry, Babe), you have a love-hate relationship with sharp knives, it’s a perfect process for you. A pair of decent kitchen shears is all you need, and here's how you do it.
flip your bird over so it’s breast side down.
Take your shears and line them up just to the right or left of the spine, and cut a straight line all the way through from one end to the other. Repeat on the other side of the spine.
That’s all the cutting you’ve got to do. Grab the spine and pull it free of the bird.
Now, turn the bird Breast side up, arrange it evenly, then give it a firm squish with your palms, as if you're giving it CPR. With a firm push or two, you’ll end up with a beautifully butterflied bird, ready to rub and cook. Tuck the wings in against the body, so they'll cook evenly.
Apply the rub liberally and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat your grill.
While that's working, cut your romaine hearts in half, shave a generous pile of Asiago, quarter your lemons, and prepare this simple vinaigrette.
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
Pinch of Sage, rubbed fine
Pinch of Sea Salt
A few twists of fresh ground black Pepper
Combine all ingredients and whisk briskly. Allow the dressing to sit so the flavors can marry while you cook.
Cut slices of sourdough roughly 1/2″ thick, then cut those into cubes. Mince a couple cloves of garlic. Melt 4 ounces of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Toss in the cubed sourdough and sauté until they start to brown. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until croutons are golden brown, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove croutons to a clean paper towel and set aside.
Start the bird breast side down and grill for 15 minutes. This allows some of the fat to render and the skin to crisp up nicely. Using tongs, carefully flip the whole thing once, and grill for about 20 minutes more.
Check the internal temperature with a quick read thermometer, looking for 155° F.
Remove the bird from the fire and allow a 10 minute rest. The bird will continue to cook during the rest, ending up with an internal temp right around 165° F.
Lightly brush each half romaine heart with Olive oil, then squeeze a lemon quarter or two over them as well. Lightly season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
Set hearts sliced side down on a moderately hot grill and tend carefully for 1 minute. Flip and grill for another minute. You're not looking to cook the lettuce so much as you're adding a bit of grilled flavor and smoke, heating the oil and citrus somewhat while keeping the insides relatively cool.
Remove hearts from grill and arrange on a platter. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and toss on some Asiago shavings. Arrange remaining lemon halves around hearts.
Portion chicken into breasts, wings, drums, and backs and serve with the salad, croutons and the beverage of your choice.