Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Grill Fling : Shaker Smoked Chicken, Grill-Baked Potatoes with Sea Salt, Fresh Cracked Pepper and Rosemary, Celeriac Remoulade, Oma’s Cucumber Salad

It feels a little…well…guilty to be celebrating spring this year. Here in the Northeast, we really didn’t have much winter to speak of – well, any winter, actually. One snowstorm in October does not a winter make, not in the land where the Blizzard of ’78 is discussed like it was yesterday - along with the April Fools blizzard that had us thinking the Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon-Red Sox home game doubleheader was in jeopardy. This April, though, it’s sunny and almost 80 in my backyard as I write this – and I’ll take that any time. There’s always next winter to get my suffering back on :)

Today’s grill fest starts with a recipe I found ages ago for Shaker-style smoked chicken thighs (which I rediscovered when I was cleaning out my recipe box last week - that’s a process in itself. In addition to my zillion cookbooks, I have a box full of loose recipes dating back to when I was a kid. Every so often it threatens to take over the kitchen, and I have to reign it back in). I’m not sure what makes this “Shaker-style”, but when I saw it involved chicken thighs I knew I had to try it out. I love cooking with chicken thighs – they’re so much more flavorful and juicy than boneless skinless breast (that stuff is practically tofu…tastes like nothing until to you do something to it.) The meat is dark, but not dark enough not to scare off the dark meat haters. I use the thighs in all sorts of things, including my chicken and dumplings, and I haven’t had anyone turn them down yet. The original recipe from called for boneless skinless thighs, so if you are really averse to using the thighs I do think the breast would work. I adapted this to use the bone-in, skin-on thighs as I like the juiciness you get from using the whole part.  It does take longer to cook this way, but I think the results are well worth it.
chicken on the grill
finished product
As for the side dishes, the potatoes are something I make for the grill all the time, and they couldn’t be simpler. Wash baking potatoes well, stab them all over with a fork, and lay them on some foil. Brush them with good olive oil, and sprinkle with a few grinds of pepper and a few shakes of salt. Tuck a fresh rosemary sprig in with them, and wrap them up tight.  They take about an hour at typical oven temperatures, but if you are smoking instead of grilling then they’ll take a few hours. You can tell they’re done if they give when you squeeze them.
ready for my closeup !
Oma’s cucumber salad is a traditional German dish that I grew up eating, though nowadays I think I have access to better cucumbers than Oma did! It’s basically a quick, fresh pickle – sliced cucumbers marinated in vinegar with a little salt, white pepper and sugar added. This basic marinade is also great with other vegetables – leftover green beans are awesome in it. My favorite cucumbers to use are the baby ones that I get at Russo’s, though a good English cucumber will work as well.
a bowl of goodness
yum !
That brings us to celeriac, or celery root - one of the weidest looking vegetables you will ever see. I wrote about celery root in my Oktoberfest post, but it's just so fun I have to write about it again.
seriously, look at that thing !!
The roots themselves are pretty scary looking, sort of alien potatoes with tentacles – but under that woeful exterior is one of my favorite food items ever, with a fresh, light celery flavor that compliments pretty much anything.The remoulade is something I’ve been dying to make ever since our friend Jonathan made it for our last Facebook Foodie Freakout. I grew up eating celery root – but in the German style, Selleriesalat (see the Oktoberfest post for the details.) Great stuff, but when Jonathan showed up with the remoualde I was intrigued. I knew that celeriac remoulade was a classic French dish, but I didn’t quite realize that it used raw, grated celery root. One bite, though, and I was hooked. A lemony, mustardy mayonnaise with that great celery root flavor and a wonderful crunch – sort of like the best version of coleslaw you could ever want to eat.

Yeah, I’m very okay with this whole celebrating spring thing – especially when it gives us an excuse to put on a meal like this one. BRING IT!! :)

Shaker Smoked Chicken
Adapted from

½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large shallots, chopped
4 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or 2 lbs boneless skinless thighs, or breast)

Whisk marinade ingredients together (everything but the chicken), and pour over chicken in a large Ziplock bag or large bowl. Toss or shake to coat, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (a couple of hours is even better).  Smoke according to your smoker’s directions, or use a foil packet of soaked wood chips on your grill. Cooking time for bone-in is 1 – 3 hours, depending on how much heat you use. Grilling boneless chicken will only take about 6 – 8 minutes per side.

Grill-Baked Potatoes with Sea Salt, Fresh Cracked Pepper and Rosemary

For each person:

1 baking potato
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 spring fresh rosemary

Wash potatoes well and prick with fork. Wrap in foil with remaining ingredients. Bake on the grill at 400F for an hour, or longer if you use a lower temperature.

Celeriac Remoulade
Inspired by Jonathan Klein

By all means, if you want to use homemade mayonnaise in this, go for it! Hellman’s, though, is mighty tasty and a lot less work.

1 ½ to 2 pounds celery root
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ tsp white pepper
½ green apple, shredded or julienne cut

Wash, peel and trim the celery root. Grate using the largest holes in your food processor or box grater. Toss the grated celery root with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Set this aside for about 30 minutes at room temperature. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ingredients (except the apple) until well blended. Stir in the apple and the celery root.  Taste and adjust for seasonings (salt? More mayo? More lemon? You be the judge!).  Let sit in refrigerator a few hours to blend the flavors, then serve.

Oma’s Cucumber Salad

There are two versions of this salad in Germany – a sour cream version, and a vinegar one. This is my version of the one my Oma made for us growing up.

6 - 8 baby cucumbers, or 1 large English cucumber
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp dill

We prefer the peel left on, but taste a bit to make sure the peels aren’t waxy or bitter – peel if needed. Slice cucumbers somewhat thinly (pickle sized slices are what you’re after).  Whisk together remaining ingredients, and pour over cucumbers. Let sit in refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

1 comment:

  1. This whole combination sounds amazing. And I agree, chicken thighs are the way to go. As for the remoulade, I love it! Great job and wonderful writing as always! xoxo