Christmas Eve was always a tough night for me. Falling asleep early would have been the ideal solution, but I was never able to accomplish this because I was always too excited. I’d lie awake in my bed, staring at the ceiling. Eventually I’d fall asleep, but then waking up in the middle of the night was torture because then I’d have to try to fall asleep a second time. Somehow I’d always make it through this longest night of the year and my parents would wake up to find me playing with a new Lego set or Transformer.
I now wake up at a sane hour on Christmas mornings, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning with the same sort of anticipation. Haven’t seen Jen since July 18 and she’ll be back bright and early on the red-eye in about 6 hours. Since I’ve got work tomorrow too, I’d better get to sleep – or at least try to. It has been a long summer without her, and I am looking forward to having her back.
Even though my lovely wife decided to leave for another summer, she was able to find me some roommates. For the past several months, Sheamus and Annabelle have been keeping me company. Sheamus (the Shameless) craves attention and is quite loud. The first time I met him over at his house, he immediately jumped into my lap and sat there for half an hour. He has been the life of every dinner I’ve hosted this summer. Annabelle is more cat-like in her demeanor, but still quite friendly on the cat scale. She has become more demanding in the past few weeks, tapping my hand while I’m typing to let me know that she’d like to be pet. They are both beautiful animals, full of personality. They are also quite tolerant of being chased around, hugged, and photographed.
Tonight is their last night here and I’ll be quite sad to see them go. It’s been a fun summer! Thanks to Joanna for entrusting me with her children, Jen for setting everything up, and the cats for being such good companions.
Butterflied chicken is an amazing thing – it cooks quickly, stays moist, and looks great. It’s great for the oven or the grill. I made this recipe last weekend, and it had nice, lemony flavor. I’ll probably up the amount of red pepper flakes the next time around to give it more of a kick.
Chicken alla Diavola
From Cooks’ Illustrated‘s Grilling book
1 whole chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), butterflied
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 cup juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 4-6 lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, skins left on, smashed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1. Rub the chicken all over with 1 tablespoon of the black pepper. Place the chicken in a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag and add 1/2 cup of the lemon juice, the zest, oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Gently massage the bag to mix the marinade around the chicken and refrigerate for 2 hours. Mix the remaining 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. After heating the grill, turn burners to medium. Place the chicken skin-side down on the cooking grate. Set a rimmed baking sheet (or other flat pan) on top of the chicken and put two bricks in the pan. Cover and grill until the chicken skin is deep brown and shows grill marks, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up with tongs and continue to cook (without replacing the pan or the bricks on top) until the chicken juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted deep into the thigh registers 165 degrees, about 15 minutes more. Brush the skin with the reserved lemon mixture. Carefully flip the chicken skin-side down and allow the skin to crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
Wasn’t too sure what to expect with this recipe because I didn’t brine the chicken or apply the rub hours and hours in advance. Fortunately, the bones on the bottom and the skin on top did a phenomenal job of keeping the meat tender and moist. This was absolutely delicious, with a nice crisp skin. I made this last weekend and will probably be making it again this weekend. The raita’s a nice touch though it’ll leave you feeling garlicky for hours.
Tandoori-Style Chicken Breasts with Raita
From Cooks’ Illustrated‘s Grilling book
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
Salt and cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on, split to make 4 halves (10-12 oz each)
1. Mix the yogurt, cilantro, and garlic together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste and refrigerate until needed. Mix the ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne together in a small bowl.
2. Coat both sides of the chicken breasts with the spice mixture. Cook the chicken, uncovered, over the hotter part of the grill until well browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Move the chicken, skin-side up, to the cooler side of the grill. Cook covered for 10 minutes. Turn and cook for 5 minutes more until done (160-165 degrees Fahrenheit). Serve immediately with the yogurt mixture.
The first time I tried to grill shrimp, it was a disaster. I cooked the shrimp for too long so they became quite dry. Happened to catch a grilled shrimp recipe on an episode of ATK and a few hours later I gave it a try with great results. I may have been overly cautious this time around as the shrimp did not get a chance to pick up any char marks.
The shrimp are mostly cooked directly on the grill while tightly compacted on skewers. They’re finished off in the sauce, which is cooked in a container sitting on the grill.
Gas-grilled shrimp skewers
from America’s Test Kitchen
1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21/25), peeled and deveined, tails left on
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil for brushing skewers
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 recipe Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce, Charmoula Sauce, or Fresh Tomato Sauce with Feta and Olives
Lemon wedges for serving
1. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto 3 skewers, alternating direction of heads and tails. Brush both sides of shrimp with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side of each skewer with sugar.
2. Turn all burners on gas grill to high, cover, and heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape grate clean with grill brush.
3. Set disposable aluminum pie plate with sauce ingredients on grill and cook as directed; remove when hot. Place shrimp skewers, sugared sides down, on grate; use tongs to push shrimp together on skewer if they have separated. Grill shrimp, covered, until lightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip and grill until second side is pink and slightly translucent, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
4. Using potholder or oven mitt, carefully lift each skewer from grill; use tongs to slide shrimp off skewers into pie plate with sauce. Toss shrimp and sauce to combine and transfer pie plate back to grill; cook, stirring, until shrimp are opaque and fully cooked, about 30 seconds. Remove from grill, add remaining sauce ingredients and toss to combine. Transfer to serving platter and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, and diced very small (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 small red onion , minced (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Disposable 10-inch aluminum pie plate
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
Combine oil, bell pepper, onion, paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic, and salt in pan. Cook over hot side of grill, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes (2 or 3 minutes longer if using gas grill); transfer to cooler side of grill and proceed to grill shrimp, adding cilantro and lemon juice just before serving.