Last week, I asked for your help in my help-seeking post: How Do I Use This Barbeque?.
You offered your help. I appreciate that.
And so tonight I decided to use the advice you gave to conquer my fear of grilling. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, your Amateur Gourmet conquered the barbeque.
It began with a book. A marvelous book, in fact: “License To Grill” by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. I bought this book last summer when I bought a kitchen-counter grill from Williams Sonoma. This is a gas grill that looks like an open-face George Foreman. I used it to prepare chicken once and it tasted fine. But there wasn’t that “open flame” quality. That’s what I was seeking tonight.
In any case*, “License To Grill” is marvelous because it offers gourmet recipes that you can prepare right in your backyard, just like Tony Soprano make sausages. And by “gourmet” I simply mean recipes that your eaters will say: “Wow this tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before!” Not gourmet like you serve slivers of horse meat in a martini glass.
[* = I think “in any case” is my most overused expression.]
In any case, I was so excited about my decision to tackle the grill that I couldn’t choose upon a recipe. I sat in my car outside of Whole Foods (after several hours of fake studying and 20 minutes of fake exercising) and flipped through the book over and over again. And then I made a bold decison: “I will bring the book into the store!”
Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Oh, I know. I thought they would think I was shoplifting a book when I left the store with it under my arm. These are the sort of worries a neurotic person like my experiences throughout the day.
So here I am pushing my cart with the cookbook in the basket:
“Daddy! Daddy!” whined the cookbook. “Can I have lucky charms?”
“No!” I yelled. That’s all he needs is MORE SUGAR.
Now I studied the fish case and saw scallops. I looked up the scallops recipe. I thought to myself: “Eh, ok, scallops, that could work.”
I explored the meat department. Also the vegetables.
And then it dawned on me. [CUE ANGELIC CHOIR.] Chicken! I’ll make chicken!
I flipped to the poultry section of the book. I found a glorious recipe: “Basil-Garlic Chicken Breasts with Grilled Balsamic Peaches.” Perfect!
I paid and made my way out of the store.
“Sir!” yelled a manager. “You have to pay for that book!”
Once home, I began my preparations.
First of all, the basil they were selling at Whole Foods was hydroponic. I suppose that’s because “real basil” hasn’t burst through the soil yet. Here’s what hydroponic basil looks like:
I think hydroponic should become a new hip word.
“Dude! That’s so hydroponic! You totally aced your SATS!”
“Umm, Marvin, a 700 combined score isn’t really acing your SATs.”
Next I poured one cup of balsamic vinegar into a measuring cup:
Only there wasn’t one cup of vinegar in the bottle I had. But I proceeded anyway. Who said details were important?
I poured the vinegar into a small sauce pan and began boiling it:
I did this for 20 minutes until half of it evaporated. Then I added molasses:
This was my first experience with molasses. I enjoyed it. I am frustrated because a while ago I encountered a recipe I wanted to make that required molasses and now that I have it I can’t remember what recipe that was. If I found it that would be so hydroponic.
So I mixed the molasses in with the vinegar and added some black pepper. Set that aside. We won’t be using that again until later.
Now, in other news, I combined olive oil, garlic and basil in a bowl:
I stupidly used Nigella Lawson’s spring whisk into which the garlic and basil got caught. I spent 20 minutes picking it out.
Put my two chicken breasts (not skinless! not boneless! although the recipe does call for boneless, the store didn’t have boneless without it also having to be skinless) into Tupperware and added the garlic, oil and basil mixture:
Now the peaches. Aren’t they lovely?
I sliced them in half and removed their pits. I contemplated eating one with some basil but Peaches and Herb don’t go together.
“GO together?” says Peaches. “Why honey we used to date… Hit it Herb!”
“REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD…”
Anyway I stacked everything up for carrying out:
I carried it out:
Now the barbeque (as Ross conjectured) had a self-igniting feature but, alas, it was broken. So I had to go the alternate route. I had to light with a flame:
Am I just a pervert or does that look dirty?
Don’t answer that.
Whooooooosh! THE HEAT IS ON! [Quiet Condoleezza.]
On goes the chicken:
Ah a nice sizzle. I sat back and relaxed, meditated, wrote a psychic letter to my spiritual penpal Dion. It came back Return to Sender.
After 10 minutes, I flipped the chicken over:
The skin looked brown, though not as brown as I should have let it become. These were thick cuts of chicken and I would soon learn my lesson the hard way. [DUN DUN DUN!]
Soon I added my peaches:
How pretty is that picture? That should be on the cover of my acid rock album “Sizzling Peaches.”
But, they weren’t getting charred enough on that top shelf, so I moved them down a floor to Apartment A:
Now we’re cooking. Two minutes later I flipped them over and brushed them with that balsamic molasses solution from before:
Don’t they look yum?
But now we’re on the chicken. The peaches are done. And the chicken?
It’s so hard to tell. I cut into one (after the requisite cooking time) and it’s raw inside. I move to the back of the fire so it will get more heat:
I close the lid. I let it cook. I take it off. I cut into it. Still raw. I put it back. This goes on for a while.
And so this was the most challenging aspect of my BBQ adventure. How do know when it’s done. I was far beyond the suggested cooking time from the cookbook, yet it was definitely not cooked enough.
I followed my gut. Sometimes you gotta do that. Eventually (probably 20 minutes longer than anticipated) I took it off the flame, cut into it, and it looked perfect:
And doesn’t that skin look wonderful?
Here’s the final plate:
And trust me, it tasted as good as it looks. And it looks fiiiiine mama. Hydroponic! Back to you, Rod.
2 thoughts on “Oy! Meets Grill: Basil-Garlic Chicken Breasts with Grilled Balsamic Peaches”
Chicken can be a real pain to do on a barbecue, especially thick pieces like breasts (as opposed to nearly-meat-free wings). And it’s not like lamb chops that are delightful when pink & underdone – you don’t want to give all the guests e-coli!! When we barbecue (and that’s a LOT!!) I usually par-cook the chicken in the microwave to avoid the charcoal-crust-with-bloody-interior effect. Not too hot and not too long, otherwise you get rubbery microwave chicken before it’s even seen the BBQ. Alternatively, close the lid on the barbecue and roast the chicken pieces – but be prepared to wait…
Peaches looked fab – mmmmmm!
You need a….THERMAPEN. The best cooking thermometer ever. Use it every time I cook meat.
It’s expensive, but it is worth it. Why? It’s truly instant read (milliseconds) and accurate. Cook chicken to a perfect 150 degrees, pork to 140, beef to 130. It nevah fails.
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