Use 2-zone heat to grill your Dixie Chicken

Detroit Free PressJune 12, 2013 

FOOD DIXIE-CHICKEN DE

Dixie chicken can be served with broccoli and bell pepper slaw and a slice of grilled baguette. McCLATCHY TRIBUNE

SUSAN M. SELASKY — MCT

Let's face it: Chicken is a grilling go-to for both weeknight and weekend cooking.

When it comes to weeknight cooking, boneless, skinless chicken breast is easy. But when you have a little more time, choose bone-in and skin-on chicken pieces. They are more flavorful and often cost less.

And pieces like chicken thighs are more forgiving.

If you pay attention to them on the grill and master a few easy steps, you won't end up with chicken that's charred on one side (with the skin burned way beyond golden brown) and still raw in the middle.

The key to grilling skin-on and bone-in chicken pieces is to use a two-zone fire, where the heat is medium-hot in one part and then cooler in another. The cooler part can be an area with no heat source at all (indirect heat) or very low heat.

Grilling chicken, in this case thighs, skin side up first and over lower heat, lets some of the fat render from the skin. This tackles a few issues. It prevents flare-ups because the fat renders slowly. It also helps crisp the skin nicely. And when you start it out over a lower indirect heat, you'll avoid a charred mess.

Today's recipe for Dixie Chicken Thighs is adapted from "The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit" by Adam Rapoport (Andrews McMeel, $45).

The recipe is simple and can be prepped in advance. Its bold and spicy flavor is thanks to a spice rub. The chicken gets a final brushing of spicy butter -- which isn't necessary, but sure does taste good.

You can adjust the spice rub to your own taste, because it is on the spicy side.

In this rub recipe, the odd ingredient is cornstarch. In the book, Rapoport writes that using cornstarch in the rub "creates an extra-crisp coating by soaking up moisture on the surface of the skin."

This new grilling book is a hefty tome with more than 300 recipes, a plethora of useful tips along with step-by-step instructions that will guide you through anything grilling. This is one grilling book that's destined to become a go-to for grilling fans, thanks to its vast recipe collection featuring bold flavors as well as countless ways of covering the basics of cooking over hot coals, Bon Appetit's preferred method of grilling.

DIXIE CHICKEN WITH BROCCOLI PEPPER SLAW

Serves: 8

Preparation: 15 minutes (plus standing time for chicken)

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

RUB

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1- 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1- 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning with garlic and onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

CHICKEN

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

16 bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 ounces each) or substitute chicken breasts or legs or chicken leg quarters

1 sourdough baguette, cut on diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick slices

Broccoli and Bell Pepper Slaw (see note)

In a small bowl combine all the rub ingredients and blend well. Transfer 1 tablespoon spice rub to medium bowl; add butter and mix well. (Rub and seasoned butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover separately. Chill butter. Bring butter to room temperature before using.)

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Sprinkle spice rub over both sides of chicken pieces. Arrange chicken pieces on waxed-paper-lined baking sheets. Cover chicken with more waxed paper and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Prepare a grill for two zones of heat, low-medium and medium-high heat. Reserve 4 tablespoons seasoned butter. Spread remaining seasoned butter on 1 side of baguette slices. Place bread slices on platter and cover.

Place the chicken on the grill, skin side up over indirect heat (the cooler part of the grill), cover and grill about 15-20 minutes. Turn chicken over. Grill until skin is deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Turn chicken again and move to the hotter part of the grill and continue grilling, skin side up, until cooked through (no red shows when chicken is cut at thigh bone), about 5 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to platter. Brush chicken with reserved 4 tablespoons seasoned butter.

Grill bread until just golden, about 2 minutes per side. Arrange toasts around chicken and serve.

Cook's note: For the Broccoli and Bell Pepper slaw, mix together one 10-ounce bag of broccoli slaw, 1 heaping cup of mixed bell pepper slices, 1 bunch sliced green onion and 1 cup favorite slaw dressing.

Adapted from "The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit" by Adam Rapoport.

Analysis per 1 chicken thigh: 312 calories, 21 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 18 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 1,104 mg sodium.

, 78 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

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