I remember this chicken from when I was a kid – buttery richness of the thighs (my favorite piece) set off by the tang of the lemon and the bite of the pepper. The skin was crispy and there always some charred bits (sometimes a lot) from where the flame had reached up and licked the chicken. We sat out on the old picnic table on the back patio and ate it off of paper plates with sweet corn and potato salad and everything was right with the world.
Cue dreamy flashback to small-town Iowa circa 1972…
Lemon Pepper Chicken
Have the wife cut-up fryer (11 pieces, counting the “last thing over the fence”) and season it with that fancy lemon pepper stuff (Tones is traditional).
Crack an Old-Style, or (if it’s the weekend) pour a whiskey and water into an insulated mug. Wheel the shaky old charcoal grill that the kids bought you for Father’s Day out to the middle of the patio.
Pour out a pile of Kingsford Briquettes into the firebox and arrange them in a rough pyramid. Douse with boy scout juice and set ablaze. If the fire starts to die before the briquettes have turned gray, pour more juice on straight from the can. Admire flames and check to see if you still have eyebrows.
Let the flames die out. Spread the coals into a single layer. Wait for wife to yell down, “Are the coals ready?”
“In just another
Wife mixes together 1/4 cup butter and 3 tablespoons “real” bottled lemon juice in a small saucepan and heats it until the butter is melted. She brings the sauce, chicken, and another beer down to the grill.
Toss the chicken on the grill and share sips of beer with the wife while waving the tongs at the kids and telling them to, “Stay away from the grill. Carefull that’s hot. Watch out or you’ll burn yourself!”
After 5 to 10 minutes the grease flare up will start. Move chicken away from hot spots. Spritz hot spots with water, creating more flare-ups. Wave tongs at kids again. Repeat until wife asks if the chicken is done.
Poke at chicken with tongs and knowingly say, “It sure looks done.”
Wife says, “Well, I like my chicken done, you know.”
“I think it’s done, but I can give a little longer” Shake empty beer can.
Wife retrieves fresh beer, peers at chicken, and says, “That looks done. When are you going to baste it?”
“Oh yeah.” Baste chicken with butter and lemon. Fight flare-ups. Rearrange chicken. Baste again. Wave tongs. Repeat.
Wife prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces and brings them to the table.
“Daddy, we’re hungry!”
Take chicken off the grill, scraping off any really badly burned bits, and put it on the table. Go get another beer and return to find that the kids have eaten everything but the chicken butt.
Eat the butt. Sip the beer. Smile and enjoy the summer.