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Flavour Guy: Don’t ridicule this April fool and his bird

April is the cruellest month, wrote T.S. Elliot. It’s cruel, he implies, because it disturbs. Things will grow and surprise us and change happens without waiting for us. Winter is quiet, the snow covers everything. It’s a great time for procrastination.

But, in April, something starts to happen. Here is the end of this part of the poem.

That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?

As the poet reminds us, sometimes it is best not to disturb things. We like the quiet, contemplative nature of winter. But April will come whether we want it or not.

This is an awful way to welcome Spring. Much better the maxim that April showers bring May flowers. And, along with the flowers, April brings out the fool in the Flavourguy, the BBQ fool.

There may still be snow on the ground in April and I know I won’t change my snow tires until May, just in case. But by the end of March, I am desperate to make a clean break with winter. April may be cruel, but March has been hellish. Enough, I say, and, haul out the BBQ.

After months of cooking indoors, on and in the stove, making stews, soups, rooting around with root vegetables, I can’t wait to go outdoors and go primal with charcoal. In fact, as I think about striking that first match, it strikes me that this is the way to banish winter. Light a fire outdoors. Welcome the rising of the sun in the east, the longer days, the warmth of the sun on old bones.

There is something pagan in this. I will be on the balcony, lighting my small charcoal smoker, fanning the fire and watching those first pale puffs waft toward the heavens. This is a sacred ceremony. I go from Jewish to Druish. All gods are on call now that winter is over.

One early spring I lit the coals, put on the lid and walked away, forgetting about the BBQ.  Smoke billowed out. A neighbour called the fire department and two trucks rushed down our street. My endeavour became known locally as two-alarm chicken.

This April, I will seek to banish winter and perform the rite once more with a sacrificial bird. This time, I will tend to the fire religiously.

This recipe works well in a hot oven but is best outdoors as soon as possible.

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Mix up a basic salad dressing (oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, mustard) or some commercially viable product as long as it does not contain sugar. Either use chicken pieces or take a whole chicken and cut it in two along the backbone.

Marinate these in the salad dressing in the fridge overnight or for at least a couple of hours.

When you light the fire, take the chicken from the refrigerator so that it is not too cold when it goes on the BBQ.

Get the fire ready and have the coals off center so that the BBQ will be hot but the chicken does not burn. The coals are ready when enveloped in ash. Wipe the marinade from the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and it put on the BBQ but away from the coals.

Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes. Turn and cook for another 20 minutes. It’s done when you can prick a thigh piece and the juices run clear. If the skin is pale, put the pieces directly over the coals for a few minutes.

For a simple BBQ sauce, mix some catsup and apple cider vinegar with a little maple syrup and a dash of liquid smoke. Mop the top of the chicken while it is still cooking but after you turn it.

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