Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thai BBQ Chicken, Better than You Get In Restaurants

A friend of mine opined to me recently that just about the best tasting thing you can eat is a well prepared chicken leg and thigh quarter. I'm not exactly sure about that. The World is full of wonderful things to eat and interesting ways to prepare them. I do think though that a chicken leg, well prepared, is with good reason a star of many, if not most, regional and ethnic cuisines.

I like to grill chicken outdoors. One of the reasons i like to is that it's so good and was totally beyond me for many years. When you think about it, you almost never get good BBQ chicken, whether you're at somebody's house or in a restaurant. It takes a lot more effort than most people are willing to put into it. I like to do it in the South East Asian style. Let me tell you how I do it.

Leg thigh quarters are good to use because they have some fat in them and an unbroken skin, covering the whole piece, this helps to keep the juices and fat in the meat.

I make a marinade. You can put anything you want in it, depending on how you want your chicken to taste. I use soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, MSG, garlic powder and a little sesame oil. I usually let it marinate for at least a couple hours, shaking it up every once in a while. When I take it out of the marinade, I dry it out on paper towels, maybe let it sit awhile for the excess to drain off and the skin to evaporate even dryer. Then I put it in a big bowl pour some Canola or grape seed oil over it and toss it so that all the skin surface is lightly coated then sit again awhile so that the oil permeates into the skin.

I never put chicken directly over a direct heat source. You're gonna have to cook it for quite awhile and the grease from the bird will flame up and burn your chicken black, even while the inside is still raw and bloody. That was pretty much how most of my efforts always turned out. So you fire up under one side of your grill and place the chicken on the other side. As you cook  and turn the pieces, you're going to want to rotate the pieces closest to the heat away and replace them with the pieces that were farthest away, for uniform cooking. At some point, after the skin is dark and crispy, the tendons holding the meat to the ankle end of the drumstick are going to start to give and the meat will move North. The knee joint will start to feel loose and wobbly. That's when you know the chicken is done. Just as that's happening, you want to take the chicken off the grill and put it back in your big mixing bowl. Pour this stuff that you buy in your local Asian store called Nuoc Cham Ga (translation: Sweet Chili Sauce for Chicken) on it and give it a few light tosses, just like you did with the oil, so that all surfaces have a light coverage. Put the chicken back on the grill. If you can adjust the heat, you might turn it down a little. You leave it back on the grill long enough to crust up a little, you don't want it to burn or blacken. Then you're done. Always serve this with more of the sweet chili sauce for dipping or pouring. Be generous. It's real good and I buy it for about $2 a quart bottle. It's always a loss leader item. Vietnamese, Thais and Filipinos buy the stuff by the case.

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