Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters

Barbecuing is an artform, but those of us with basic LP grills can't quite claim to be grill artists or cullinary masters of the flame. It's still good to know how to make decent grilled chicken easily.

The Scot in me comes out occasionally and I'm drawn to good deals. I found a great deal on a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters the other day and threw them in my freezer. This is lesson one: separate those damn things before you freeze them -- especially if you intend on cooking them one at a time like a proper stag.

Chicken leg quarters are huge, intimidating to work with and have a bone or three in them. They are certainly not as easy to care and feed as chicken cutlets or even chicken breasts. I attempted to cook two immediately and managed to catch my grill on fire. A subsequent consultation with a co-worker cleared up my error.

To cook chicken leg quarters, do the following:

Marinate appropriately. Barbecue? Garlic and lime? Follow the instructions or make up your own instructions.

Fire up both sides of the grill until it is thermonuclearly hot (this is assuming you have a two-sided LP grill).

Turn off the left side, throw the quarters on the left side (leaving the right side on high), close the lid and wait 20 minutes. Flip the quarters, leaving them on the left side, grill for another 20 minutes with the lid down. Put the right side on low and transfer the quarters to that side for about ten minutes a side.

Those are the basic guidelines; work with the timing based on the variation of your grill. All in all, you're a grown person and should know how to tell when chicken is fully cooked. If you separate the leg from the thigh and still see pink or red or blood. Toss it back on the grill for a bit.

Green Tea Plum Wine Cooler

This recipe was half-created from a mythical world beverage that was once (and may periodically still be) available at EPCOT and half-created from a chilled version of a throat-soothing home remedy given me by the bassist of my former band Monte Carlo Method.

You'll need four green tea bags, honey, sugar, a bottle of Chinese plum wine, a bottle of coconut rum, water and ice. Hardware includes measuring implements, a tea kettle or appropriate saucepan, and a decent sized glass iced-tea pitcher.

First, how to make iced tea fast. In general, take your final vessel half-full with ice and water. If you intend on making 8 cups of tea, fill your pitcher with 8 cups of ice and water. This can be achieved by four times filling a two-cup measuring cup first with ice, then topping it off with water until the ice barely floats. Surprise! Two instant cups of ice water. Use twice as many tea bags per cup of boiling water, steep appropriately, sweeten and then add the hot double-strength, double-sweet tea to the ice water pitcher. The tea is cooled to roughly room temperature and may then be served over ice.

Using this formula to make the cooler, do the following.

Boil two cups of water, steep four green tea bags, adding two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of honey (I use regional orange blossom honey). After steeping the tea, add to two cups of ice water in your pitcher. Add four cups of Chinese plum wine and one cup of coconut rum. Serve over ice.

Funny. It took longer to explain how to make sweet iced tea than it did to explain the cooler.

Beware, as with most tea, green tea contains caffeine. This is the reason I am awake at 12:45am writing a beverage blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chilled Black Bean and Corn Salad

This is a recipe based on reverse-engineering one of my mother's recipes. It goes great with both Cuban, Mexican and faux-Island-style food. I made two pounds of beer-steamed shrimp yesterday and served them with this salad. It's quick and easy, and comes from cans for the most part.

Chilled Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 cans black beans
2 cans fiesta-style corn
2 cans Rotel mild diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro
half a chopped onion (or more.. or green onion if you prefer)

Use one-half cup of the dressing per the recipe above. The recipe for the dressing below does not come out to half a cup, so you may have some leftover. Whisk thoroughly to combine.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp basalmic vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp cilantro paste (in the produce section!)
2 tbsp lime juice
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the salad, drain all of the cans, put the contents into a collander and rinse thoroughly (this is very important!). Toss the ingredients into a big glass serving bowl, add dressing and chill in the fridge.

In Praise of Bacon

What most people would call a "health nut," but I prefer to think of myself as simply "healthy." In fact, those people who call me a "health nut," I prefer to call "obese."

This blog isn't a rant and rave about weightloss and healthy eating, but I preface it with two things. One, you can't get healthy and in shape if you're eating garbage. Period. And two, if you're not healthy and in shape, there is a 90% chance that it is entirely related to you eating too much garbage. Don't try to argue it, I know at least two people that have shed 70lbs. in less than a year, and one of them was myself.

On a lighter note though, bacon. Bacon, like other recreational drugs, should be used in extreme moderation, but when used can be a very, very handy thing. In the last year or so, I've tried to keep a bit of bacon (whether in strip or slab form) in the fridge at all times in case there was a need for a special weekend breakfast. If you know what you're doing, it's pretty hard to mess up a good plate of bacon and eggs (add some salsa or pasta sauce and you've got an extra exotic offering that perpetuates the illusion that you went to culinary school).

I like bacon. I don't love bacon. I would be hard pressed to ever say "Gosh, this sandwich, pizza, salad or cake needs some bacon on it," and I'm not the kind of person that wakes up on Saturday morning and makes twelve slices of bacon with which to plop down in front of the television, but bacon has a two-fold purpose.

Flavor. This is self explanatory, and a little bacon (if its good quality) goes a long way for adding flavor to cooking. I don't think I need to go on much further.

In addition to flavor, the second wonderful side-effect of bacon is lubrication. Bacon yields up the second best natural lubricant that I've ever encountered. I've never had an omelet stick to a pan after cooking up some bacon. I've made maddening fried eggs with bacon grease, and cooking spinach in bacon grease is divine.

But what do you do with the grease when you're done? Pour it down the sink!? NO!!!

I make it a habit to save half of my bacon grease before I throw anything else in the pan by pouring the excess into a little plastic container I keep in the fridge. This leftover bacon grease can be used to grill up the best grilled cheese sandwiches you've ever had. (Serve with tomato soup, please).

Now you know why I like bacon. An oft over-indulged and misunderstood vice. Meanwhile, I've got to get outside and get some exercise to burn off this bacon.