(Before we start, I’m aware that I’m not supposed to turn nouns into verbs, but I did anyway. And this won’t be the last time.)
My little Weber charcoal grill has been a stalwart backyard companion, seeing me through several summers, many parties, and many more beers. He has served admirably, weathering harsh winters, falling branches, and admittedly too infrequent cleaning from me. He is as loyal as a grill can be, given that he can’t really move or talk or do much of anything to prove its loyalty.
He is a little small, and annoying to light, but that was all part of his charm. He’d often sear my food a little too aggressively, leaving me to pick off the black burny bits before serving anything to my guests. But he was a good grill, and it was easy to look past most of his shortcomings.
Most of them.
There comes a time in a man’s life where he has to admit: despite nice flavor, grilling with charcoal is a total pain in the ass.
It takes too long to heat up for someone as impatient as me, and you have a limited cooking window once the coals are aflame. You also have to store big bags of weird smelling black bricks that inevitably soot up your hands when you’re trying to spread them out correctly.
To that end, I caved. I bought a gas grill. A behemoth of a thing, really, but it’s shiny and sturdy and new.
To say goodbye to my little turtle of a Weber, I decided to grill up one of my (and my wife’s) favorites: Peanut Chicken Satay.
How to Make Inauthentic Peanut Chicken Satay:
This recipe is inauthentic because I neither 1) cut the chick up and put it on skewers as is the “satay” part of the name, nor 2) marinate the chicken properly beforehand. I used a basic salt-and-seasonings chicken brine, which is pretty not Thai.
Things you’ll need:
-Chicken (skinless breasts are best, but tenderloins would work too)
-Seasonings (unfortunately, Old Bay isn’t called for, but salt, mustard seeds, coriander, black pepper, and garlic are)
-Peanut sauce (Time permitting, you can make your own with peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and chicken broth. Time did not permit, so I used House of Tsang Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce that I found at Safeway)
-A grill and grill accessories
-A sauce brush
-Beer (Sam Adams Summer Ale makes another strong appearance)
Step 1: Brine your chicken
This is a technique I picked up from a fancy Williams Sonoma grilling book. The concept is deceptively simple: soak your chicken in seasoned brine so it retains its moisture on the grill. Making the brine is super easy: just dump a bunch of water, salt, mustard seeds, coriander, black pepper, and garlic into a bowl (or freezer bag, like I did) and then add your chicken. No need to measure amounts, just add a lot of each thing, but make sure there is more water than anything else. Let it sit around for a few hours to really soak up all the tasty goodness.
2: Prep the grill
Chicken is a fickle meat. It burns quickly and dries out without warning. A big mistake a lot of green-grillers make is allowing their poultry to sit over open flame while it cooks. Doing so will quickly render your chicken rubbery at best and burned at worst.
The solution is indirect heat. Arrange your charcoals so that they only take up half of the grill. This will give you two areas to work with: direct heat over the coals, and indirect heat…not over the coals.
Step 3: Chicken + grill = ??
While you’re waiting for the coals to heat up, remove your chicken from the brine and use some paper towels to pat them down. Removing the excess water will keep the grill from smoking and also make the chicken sear better when you drop it on the direct heat.
When the coals are ready (very, very hot, white around the edges, glowy in the middle) briefly place the chicken over the direct heat for 2 minutes. Flip and repeat for another 2 minutes on the other side.
Step 4: Sauce!
Let the chicken cook for about 10 minutes with the lid on, letting all of the juicy brine cook the chicken from the inside out. No need to flip yet, there will be time to flip out later.
Pour your sauce all over the chicken, but try not to spill it into the coals, as that could cause smoke, which will mar the flavor of your meat. Use a sauce brush to spread it evenly on the breasts to ensure maximum spicy peanut coverage.
Let the sauce cook a little bit, then flip the chicken. Learn from my mistake, and don’t leave it too long, or the sauce can and will burn. If it does, brush some more sauce over top of it and hope no one notices.
Step 5: Serve with scalloped potatoes and peas
And you’re done. Enjoy the spicy flavors against the juicy (presumably perfectly cooked by now) chicken!
With that, I say farewell to my little grill and hope his time out to pasture is relaxing and flare-up free.
Just for the record, here is his replacement (4 burner, 45,000 BTU, propane):