Monday, July 9, 2012

Provencal Roast/Grilled Chicken

Summer is in full swing all over the Bay Area. The temperature goes up to the 80s in mid-afternoon, and evenings are warm (cooler if close to the ocean or Bay). It can be hot during the day, but you don't sweat, because there’s little humidity. It's very comfortable (unlike the rest of America, which is having a heat wave), and of course perfect weather for cooking and dining outdoors.
Americans love chicken, but nowadays boneless, skinless chicken rules – 8 out of 10 people order it in a restaurant or purchase it for cooking at home. The more economical option is to buy a whole chicken; it is also simple to cook and the best way to get a flavorful chicken. This recipe originally contains no chili powder or paprika (more garlic and herbs instead) but I modified it for the younger crowds' taste buds. It comes out with beautiful color... and smells so good! If you still do not want the skin, simply remove it just before eating. You will find tender, moist meat below the skin.

When cooking a whole bird in an outside broiler/grill, make sure not to place the bird directly over the fire (dripping fat from the chicken can catch fire) until the last 5-6 minutes, or you will get a really black bird.

Roast/Grilled Chicken—Poulet aux Herbes à la Rôti
Serves 4-5
1 (3 ½ - 4 pound) whole chicken

1 ½ tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1 tablespoon paprika (pimentón)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons Dijon prepared mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 lemon or ½ orange

Run a sharp knife from top to bottom (between the breasts) to cut open the chicken. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

For the marinade:
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients (salt, pepper, chili powder and paprika), then add remaining ingredients (rosemary, thyme, garlic, mustard, olive oil and zest). Stir to mix well. Place chicken in bowl, rub the marinade on both sides of chicken, cover with plastic wrap and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours or (preferably) overnight in refrigerator.

To cook the chicken:
1. If the chicken was marinated overnight in refrigerator, bring it to room temperature at least a half hour before cooking.
2. Preheat oven or grill to 400° F. Place the chicken skin side down over rack or aluminum foil in a baking pan (save the marinade for basting the chicken later).
3. Cook about 20 minutes, then turn chicken skin side up and cook another 20 minutes.
4. At this point, brush the remaining marinade on top of the chicken, then increase the oven temperature to 425° F, or increase grill flame if using BBQ/grill.
5. Roast about another 7-8 minutes, or change the setting and broil for 5-6 minutes or until top of chicken is a beautiful mahogany (golden brown) and some parts of the chicken are charred. Or, if grilling, place chicken directly on grill for 5-6 minutes to finish.
6. Rest the chicken at least 10 minutes at room temperature before cutting/serving. 

Ready to go into the oven or outdoor broiler.

The chicken would look like this when it's done.

 Note: This chicken will taste delicious even after chilling (ideal for picnics or a buffet in the garden).

Serve with a garden salad and olives from the South of France, plus couscous or quinoa dressed with olive oil, chopped flat-leaf parsley and red onion (couscous and quinoa, are quick-cooking grains that you can prepare easily while roasting/grilling the chicken).

Wine suggestions: I love to serve this dish with Bandol red wine from Provence. It is made with at least 50% Mourvèdre, the principal grape in big, robust wines like Barolo from Piedmont, Italy. But Bandol is not easy to find in the U.S., so my next choice would be a red Côte de Rhône, especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas. Not cheap, but worth it if you are able to discover a good one.  I would also recommend red Zinfandel wine (grown only in California). Zinfandel is generally not big (except maybe in alcohol content), robust or complex, but some Zins made from old vines are delicious and perfect for summer barbeque. Check the label to see if it is made from old vines. For information about Zinfandel, click here and see p. 2.


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