Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cheap Bastid's If You Grill Chicken Breast...Meg Will Come

Last Thursday I had the day off. So I stuck my head in the freezer. Now, this freezer (if you recall the photo I ran last week of all the stuff in my freezer) is chock full of hard frozen food. For those of us over 50, it’s more like Fibber McGee’s closet than a freezer. You never know what’s going to come tumbling out when the door opens.

So I poked around just a bit. I wanted something to grill which would give us some left-overs because I had to work all weekend and wanted to be able to take something for lunch.

I stuck my arm in on the far left side where I keep the chicken and started pulling out freezer bags of stuff. God, it hurts when you drop a quart bag packed full of frozen chicken thighs on your toe when you’re wearing slides. Geez, damn! Anyway there were thighs and legs and boneless/skinless breasts and way in the back—so far back I literally had to stick my head in there was a bag with 4 bone and skin on breasts. Suddenly, there’s a voice in my head, “If you grill it, she will come.” Whoa! Since when did I turn into Ray Kinsella? I pulled my arm back like it was about to freeze off. I peered back inside, bags of other chicken parts beckoned on the counter.

Tentatively, I stuck my arm back inside the freezer. “If you grill it, she will come.” Gingerly I grasped the bag filled with the 4 breasts and eased it out onto the counter and then I slowly replaced the multiple bags of other chicken pieces.

“If you grill it, she will come.”

It started a few months ago. I had taken 2 bags of chicken out of the freezer. One bag had 4 thighs and the other 4 legs. It was going to be a feast with left-overs. We got a text while I was grilling the chicken. Miss Meggie was on her way over (Meggie is my 20 year old step daughter). OK, no problemo, we thought. When she got here we were sitting and eating our salads. Meggie dropped her bag and computer in her room and came out to get a tray. When we finished our salads we noticed that out of 8 pieces of chicken that there were only 4 left. We looked at one another and started laughing. Guess she’s hungry!

“If you grill it, she will come!”.

I pulled the bag of breasts out and put them on a tray on the counter to thaw (or as Carolyn says to “unthaw”). The first thought that crossed my mind was, “Hmmmm, I wonder if this is enough? The last 2 times I did bone-in breasts on the grill, Meggie came over for dinner.” Naw, it’s OK. I tell Carolyn what I’ve taken out for dinner and her response is, “I guess that means Meggie will be over. She’s been over the last few times you grilled chicken.” And then we didn’t think anymore about it.

But all day, I kept hearing in my head, “If you grill it, she will come.”

So, we let the breasts thaw and prepared for a simple dinner of grilled chicken breast and left over potato salad (homemade of course). It’s now coming up on 5 p.m. Carolyn’s sitting at her computer and starts laughing. “Walt, I just got an e-mail from Meg. She’s coming over for dinner. She’s going to think the only thing we eat is chicken breast.”

“If you grill it, she will come!”

She never spontaneously shows up on nights we’re doing canned soup and salad or hot dogs. But she seems to have an infallible radar for the juicy goodness of crispy-skinned grilled chicken breast.

But I’m grumbling just a tiny bit. There goes my fantasy of having chicken salad sandwiches for work or a cold left-over breast teasing me from the fridge in the break room, beckoning me to snitch bites on the fly throughout the day.

The really good news though is that with Miss Meggie coming over, it mean it’s time for an “emergency” ice cream run. I hop in my ageing Mazda and head on over to Stater Bros. (We’ve been on a plain old chocolate ice cream kick lately topped with sunflower seeds). Just for a few seconds I stand in front of the poultry counter fantasizing about picking up another package of breasts at $.99/lb but no, we’ve got enough and I can stock up later in the week.

To make a long story short. Miss Meggie came over, gracing us with her regal presence and there was enough chicken to go around. It’s just too bad she didn’t ask us if this was heaven. Because then we could have said, “No, it’s Vista.”

Now, somehow or another it seems that I’ve finally mastered the technique of grilling bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. It’s only taken me 30 years! I know that it’s not as healthy as boneless/skinless but it sure tastes better. And I have plenty of use for that healthier kind. Let’s put it this way, cavemen did not bone and skin the birds they killed and cooked. They skewered them and shoved them over an open flame.

So here’s how I do it:

Miss Meggies Chicken Breast

4 chicken breasts (bone in & skin on)
Salt, pepper, garlic
1 tbsp cooking oil

Thaw the breasts. Put them down on a tray big enough to hold them. Peel the skin loose with your finger and shake a bit of the salt/pepper/garlic mixture (my basic, go-to spice blend) under the skin onto the meat & cover it back up with the skin. Using a silicone basting brush, paint a really thin skim of oil onto the surface of the chicken and then sprinkle some of the spice blend onto the breast. Turn them over and paint the bottom (bone side) and sprinkle more spice blend. Now you’re ready to cook.

Prepare grill to medium hot (you should be able to hold your hand about 3” over the hot grill for about 4 seconds). Put the breasts bone side down onto the grill and leave them for 3-4 minutes. (As they say sometimes in poker: “no peekie; no lookie”). Then flip them over onto the skin side for 3-4 minutes. You’re going to be generating some smoke because what you’re trying to do is render the fat off the breast to moisten and flavor the meat.

Now, flip the breast back over to the “bone side” and move it to a slightly cooler portion of the grill. The smoke should be pretty much gone because the fat is rendered. The skin which is now up should be starting to get some color and have some grill marks. Let it cook for about 10 minutes. Then flip it again for 3 minutes and finally back to skin side up to finish, about another 3-4 minutes.

All total, it takes about 20 minutes or so to come out with chicken breast that’s done, that has a deep, rich, brown, crispy, tasty skin and meat that’s juicy with just a hint of the salt/pepper/garlic you applied in every bite. Let the breast rest for about 5 minutes or so before eating so the juices flow back in and the meat’s cooled enough to eat.

So that’s it. We like to serve this simply with either a garden salad or potato salad and it’s a terrific meal. Carolyn likes to peel the skin off her's and eat it last almost like a chicken skin ChicharrĂ³n. (I wonder why no one's every tried to make chicharrons out of chickn skin?)

The Cheap Bastid Test: This is easy. I buy these breasts on “special” at $.99 a pound. Each breast is about ¾ lb. So 4 breasts cost about $3. Add about $1 for the potato salad ingredients and you’ve spent $4 to feed 3 or 4 people.

And Meggie loves it too.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!

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