Monday, November 2, 2009

Cinnamon-Chile Wood Fired Chicken



As much as I appreciate the exotic, if lemongrass and rosemary were tied to train tracks and I could only save one, I know I'd go continental. In other words, I'm no Jean-Georges.

However, when rubbing down the above chicken before it's fight with the flames, I suddenly felt inspired to add some tropical notes to the mix. I took two Eberly's (sorry Lionette's) chicken legs and smeared them with peanut oil, salt, cayenne, chile powder, cinnamon and ginger. That and the smoke from the wood fire -- nature's pimenton -- created an eye-crossingly good grilled chicken.

As far as wood fire cooking goes, I've said it before and I'll say it again: even though you associate sitting around the fire with the nighttime (and perhaps harmonicas and plastic saguaros), it's a really good idea to start your fire earlier if you plan to cook on it and plan to see what you're cooking.

That said, I've never thought to start a cooking fire before dusk, but even so I'm starting to get a feel for it. This time I didn't scorch the chicken black and leave it sashimi grade on the inside, as I have in other dimly lit grilling experiences. And when the coals pooped out I did have to finish it in the oven for about ten minutes, but otherwise this was everything you want from chicken grilled over a real fire: crackly skin, juicy meat and just a touch of ash.

But it was really the spice mix that drove me to blog about it. I can't imagine anyone trying this recipe and being disappointed, unless they're either vegetarian or a chicken.

-----------------------------------------------------

Recipe: Cinnamon and Chile Grilled Chicken

serves 2, or 1/2 of a glutton

Note: You could use a charcoal or gas grill instead of a wood fire, but you could also go to KFC.

2 chicken legs, as sustainably raised as you can afford
a glug of peanut oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp chile powder (something like ancho)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne

1. Start your fire.

2. Rub your legs with the peanut oil and spices. Do the same for the chicken legs.

3. Once the flames have given way to coals and once your grill is hot, add the legs.

4. Watch carefully. If they're giving any suggestion of catching fire, raise the grill or spread the coals to diffuse the heat. If they're not browning, lower the grill closer to the heat.

5. After about 10 minutes or when mahogany (golden is for people who peel cucumbers), flip and repeat on the B-side.

6. When both sides are brown and crackly, cut one thigh to check the interior. If they're at all pink, continue grilling with less direct heat or finish in an oven set at 350.

7. Barely hear the rosemary scream over the train's whistle.

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