Grilled Yogurt Chicken with Tumeric Sweet Potatoes

This marinade produces some of the tastiest chicken I have every grilled, and the sweet potatoes and peppers are the perfect side dish.  Don’t be afraid to use the full 2 tablespoons of salt. It seems like overkill, but the chicken is heavily spiced enough that it really brings out these other flavors.

Yogurt Chicken

1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Aleppo or Ancho chili powder
1  (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Combine the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, salt, and spices, then add chicken and turn until coated well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, turning the pieces occasionally.

Sweet Potatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled, washed, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried cilantro

Combine the pepper, onion, oil, lime  juice, salt, and spices, then add sweet potatoes and turn until coated well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

The Cook

Set up your grill  for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to a vegetable basket or griddle, reserve the marinade.   Grill the vegetables for about 6-8 minutes, until grill marks appear and they begin to soften. Turn and grill the other side for another 6 minutes. Return vegetables to the reserved marinade, toss to coat and set aside.

Remove the chicken pieces from the yogurt marinade and put on the grill. Grill for about 40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so, until the juices run clear or when a meat thermometer reads 180°F when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh.

How Hot is It?

How do you know how hot your charcoal grill is? You can rely on lid thermometers and remote probes (and I often do), but it’s hard to beat the “hand test” for a quick check on how the coals are doing.

Put your open hand, palm down, about 5 inches from the grate and see how long you can comfortably hold it there.

2 to 4 seconds – this is high heat, 450°F to 550°F. Great for searing steaks.

5 to 7 seconds  – this is medium heat, 350°F to 450°F. Good for general grilling – burgers, chicken pieces, or veggies.

8 to 10 seconds  – this is low heat, 250°F to 350°F. Use a drip pan or some kind of heat barrier and this temp this is great for ribs and pork butt.

Carnitas

When we go out for Mexican, I almost always order these golden bits of piggy goodness. I kept trying to make them at home, but had a hard time duplicating the combination of crispness and tenderness that really makes this dish work so well.

Truly authentic versions slowly fry the pork in lard. This recipe uses a kind of reverse braise to achieve a very similar and tasty result.

I like making this in a Dutch oven on the Big Green Egg. You could do this recipe in the oven or on the stove, but then you’re missing out on all the wonderful flavor that wood smoke brings to the party.

Ingredients

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast (aka Boston Butt)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Directions

Set your grill up for at least a three hour cook over indirect heat at 300°F. I used a little oak for smoke.

Cut pork into chucks, discarding any big pieces of connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat. The size of the chunks depends on how you like your carnitas. We like them fine and crispy, so I cut the meat into 2-inch pieces. Cut them larger if you like yours big and tender.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large Dutch oven with a lid. If necessary, add more broth or water so that the pork is just covered in liquid.

Put the covered pot on the grill and let simmer until pork is tender, stirring occasionally, about an hour and a half, adding more water if necessary to keep pork partially submerged. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Uncover the pot and continue cooking until liquid evaporates and the meat begins to brown. If there’s not enough fat rendered from the pork, add another 1/4 cup peanut oil. Continue cooking until the meat starts to get crisp. Check and stir about every 15 minutes until the meat is crispy, but not dry or burned.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Cool the meat slightly and discard any pieces of fat or gristle.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, salsa, diced onions, and guacamole.

Gluten-Free Egg Rolls

I love Asian takeout food. I’ve been lucky that we have 2 takeout places close to us that have gluten-free menus. I can get all of my favorites – General’s Chicken, Singapore rice noodles, kung pao, and pad thai. The only thing missing is egg rolls. I can’t find takeout (or even frozen) GF egg rolls anywhere.

Finally, my dear wife suggested that we try and make our own using the rice paper wrappers that are typically used for spring rolls.

Ingredients

1 pound ground pork
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
2-4 carrots, grated
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (gluten free)
2-3 Tien Tsin peppers
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Szechuan or black  pepper
1/4 teaspoon 5-Spice Powder

1 package round rice paper wrappers (about 30 wraps)

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok until it’s hot and starts to shimmer. Add the Tien Tsin peppers and fry 2-3 minutes until very dark brown, but not burnt. Remove peppers and reduce heat to medium.

Add pork, garlic, and onion. Cook until the pork is evenly browned.

Add the cabbage and carrots. Mix well and cook until the carrots start to soften and the cabbage is a bright green.

Remove pan from heat and add Hoisin sauce, salt, pepper, and 5-Spice powder. Mix well to combine. Let filling cool for 30 minutes.

Assembling the egg rolls goes a lot faster if you have 1 person soaking the wrappers and 1 rolling the egg rolls. Dip wrappers one at a time into pan of hot water to soften – 30 seconds or so. You want them pliable, but not so soft that they tear.

Lay the wrapper on a tea towel. Spoon about a 1/4  cup of the filling onto the lower half of the wrapper. Fold the bottom edge of the  wrapper over filling, fold over both sides, and continue rolling. Place seam side down on a sheet of parchment paper.

We baked our egg rolls for about 10 minutes at 350°F. You can also deep-fry them in small batches, cooking until they are golden brown and crispy (about 3 minutes).

Grilled Lamb

I have to admit that when it comes to lamb,  I’m good for a couple of gyros a year, but that’s about it. I don’t really have any objections to lamb per se. It’s just not something I grew up eating, so I don’t even think about it when I’m planning meals. But with Easter coming up there’s lots of lamb available, so I thought I’d give it a try on the grill.

Flattening the leg, instead of cooking it rolled up like a roast, decreases the cooking time and gives you more of the crispy, herby crust.

Ingredients

1 boneless leg of lamb, 4 to 6 pounds, butterflied
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon or strong brown mustard
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried spearmint
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

Unroll the leg of lamb and remove any excess fat. You want the leg as uniformly flat as possible, so you may need to cut into the bigger muscle to open it up a little. Score the fat cap with a sharp knife, making crisscross cuts every half inch or so to help the meat take in the marinade.

Combine everything but the lamb in a food processor and blend until it’s a thick paste. Spread the paste over all sides of the leg. Work the paste into the crevices and the cuts you made in the fat cap.

Wrap the leg in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium heat (350°F). Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine or apple for meats like lamb). Put the lamb, skin side down, on the middle of the hot grate. After 20 minutes, flip the roast and rotate it 180 degrees. Cook for another 20 minutes, then flip and rotate again.

Continue cooking until the leg reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees (medium rare), about another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before carving against the grain into thin slices for serving.

Beef Sate with Peanut Sauce

Is there anything better than meat on a stick? Meat on a stick with a rich and savory peanut sauce, of course.

The red curry paste in this recipe is a real  time saver. It adds a lot of flavor without the need to crush your own lemon grass or locate kaffir lime leaves.

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless sirloin or flank steaks
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons lime juice (1 medium lime)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

Directions

Combine the soy sauce, honey, red curry paste, lime juice, peanut oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and coriander in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.

Trim excess fat and gristle from the beef. Cover the roast with a layer of plastic wrap or wax paper. Use the the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a heavy sauce pan to pound the meat until it it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Slice the meat against the grain into 1/4 x 3 inch strips.

Put the beef in a big Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge, overnight is much better.

Soak skewers for at least an hour. Set your grill up for a direct cook over very high heat (about 500°F).

Pour the marinade off the beef and into a medium saucepan. Add the peanut butter and coconut milk. Stiring regularly, bring the peanut mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce has reduced by about a third. Remove peanut sauce from heat and keep warm.

Place steak on the skewers. Double skewer the meat so that it will be easier to flip. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through. You want to crispy on the outside and medium on the inside. Serve hot with the peanut sauce.