Firepit Now Open for Business!

The ground is pure sog, and only about half of the usual Trumpeter Swan clan has returned to the creek in front of the house, but we’re going to call it anyway: Spring is here!

This afternoon Aaron hauled a load of split pine to the firepit and started a roaring fire to burn the winter dust off the iron grill grates. It will take another big fire to season the iron properly, but at the end of the day, when I shucked out of my jeans and caught a whiff of smoky chicken and burnt pine needle on them, I felt so relieved to have my barbecuing season back. That’s not to say I wish I lived in a more temperate place; on the contrary. The extremes here make every season’s arrival feel as dramatic as a gavel coming down.

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Grilled Chicken with Dark Spices 

Last summer when I appeared on an Minnesota Public Radio panel with celebrated Minneapolis chef Sameh Wadi, he referred to the flavors of his mother’s Middle Eastern cooking as “heavy on dark spices,” a term for the sweeter register–cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, and the like–that describes these spices perfectly. The addition of any of these to cumin and saffron is pure intoxication.

10 chicken drumsticks

4 cloves garlic, finely grated

2 tablespoons canola oil

12 green cardamom pods (or 1/2 teaspoon seeds)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon pinched saffron

1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt

Marinate the chicken at least two hours, and up to 24 hours, before cooking.

Combine the rinsed drumsticks, garlic, and oil in a large bowl. In a mortar and pestle (or with a heavy knife) smash the cardamom pods and pick out the green skins. (After this point, you can also use a spice grinder.) Combine the cumin and cardamom seeds and crush to a powder. Add the fenugreek, ginger, salt and pepper and add all spices to the chicken. Combine the saffron and yogurt and add to the chicken, tossing with a wide spatula to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Heat a grill over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken on one side, not moving it until well-browned, and then flip. When marked on both sides, move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill and cook gently for about 20-30 minutes, or until just cooked through to the bone.

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