Boy, have we been busy. First we ran off to Chincoteague for a weekend of fun in what I think may be the most peaceful place in the world.
Two weeks later, we hopped on a plane for a whirlwind four days in New Orleans. The days were sweltering, but the beignets were sweet and the coffee was strong. There is nothing so joy-filled and rejuvenating as a few days with the family.
As if all of that wasn’t enough excitement, somewhere in between (June 18th for precision’s sake) Joe got the wild idea to ask me to marry him. I bet you can’t guess what my answer was…
Of course, I said yes.
And so after a June full of excitement, we crashed over the 4th of July weekend. I spent most of it languishing in the joy of having nothing to do but enjoy the sun, play with the dog, and read.
But what would a summer holiday weekend be without a little outdoor cooking? Some smoky, savory chicken breasts and a bright summer salad of avocado, yellow squash and tomatoes made for a perfect Saturday picnic.
Pecanwood Smoked Chicken Breasts
- 3.5 lbs. of bone-in split chicken breasts
- 6 cups water, divided
- 6 tbsp. kosher salt
- The zest of one lemon (large strips)
- 1/2 tsp. allspice berries
- 1 tbsp. telicherry peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 6-7 chives
- 4-5 parsley leaves, chopped
- 1.5 lbs. wood chips (I used pecanwood)
Combine 2 cups of the water with the salt, lemon zest, herbs, and spices and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool for at least one hour. Add the brine to the remaining 4 cups of cool water in a large plastic tub. Put the chicken breasts into the brine and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning once.
1 hour before grilling, add the wood chips to a bowl of water to soak. Drain, and then place them in an aluminum foil basket.
Preheat a gas grill to 300 degrees F. with all burners on high. After preheating, maintain a temperature of between 275-300 degrees. On my grill, this took one burner set on high. Place the basket of wood chips directly over the heat source. Otherwise, you won’t get any of that wonderful smelling smoke.
Remove your chicken breasts from the brine, pat them dry, and then put them on the grill away from the lit burner. Indirect heat is key for slow smoking. Also, keep your grill lid closed as much as possible. Cook the breasts, turning 180 degrees every 40 minutes until the internal temperature close to the bone is about 160 degrees. It will take about 2-3 hours. Rest 10 minutes and then slice.
Lemony Summer Salad
I really loved this salad. Not just because it gave me a chance to use some of the (excessive) bounty of squash that appeared in my garden while I was in New Orleans, but because of the balance. It’s very zen. You get this bright, tart flavor from the lemon juice and tomato, a little bit of creaminess from the avocado, and a sweet crunchy bite from the summer squash. It played very well with the smoky, salty flavor of the chicken. Best part: five minute prep time.
- 1 ripe avocado, chopped and treated with lemon juice or citric acid to prevent browning
- 1 summer squash, matchstick cut
- A handful of grape tomatoes, sliced
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 5 or 6 lemon-basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the lemon juice and olive oil and a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Toss with the avocado, tomatoes, squash, and lemon basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a bit of lemon zest.
Happy July to all! Hope you’re enjoying the summer as much as I am. County fair season is coming up, so hopefully I’ll have some interesting recipes to share as I start experimenting with what to make for Arlington’s competition.
Ciao for now,