This is the only chicken dish I have ever cooked that spent a day at the spa before being eaten. First came a nice long soak in a salt and brown sugar brine. A jalapeño-fennel wrap followed and then, a spicy pepper scrub. The finale: A nice, long, warm snooze in a dry sauna –aka the gas grill in my backyard. Then, it’s your turn to indulge.
Spoiled spa chicken
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine
The original recipe called for three 3.5-lb chickens or enough for 10 people. I have done my best to scale it down from its Brady Bunch origins.
1/2 gallon water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
About 3 pounds of bone-in chicken parts (breasts, thighs, etc)
5 garlic cloves
1/4 fennel bulb
1 ancho chilli
(Makes extra: Store in refrigerator up to 6 months)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly-ground pepper (Yes, your hand will ache and your pepper shaker will be empty when you are through.)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Brine: Warm 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 gallon water in microwave until salt and sugar dissolve. Soak chicken in brine for 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Wrap: Combine garlic, scallions, fennel, jalapeno and ancho chili in food processor until finely ground. Remove chicken from brine. Pat dry. Slather on chicken, loosening skin and rubbing mixture into the resultant pockets between skin and meat.
Rub: Combine all rub ingredients (salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, thyme, rosemary) in a jar. Rub on chicken. Don’t use too much. Rub is very salty, especially considering chicken has already been brined.
Prepare gas grill: Light half the burners on your gas grill. Maintain medium heat. If desired, fill a smoker box with wood chips soaked 1/2 hour in water, wine or beer. I find it works best to put the smoker right on the grill next to the food but if you have a smaller grill, you might want to put it under the grills. Your grill should be about 350 degrees.
Place chicken in grill center, away from direct heat. (Direct heat burns the skin of bone-in meat while leaving the center raw. Um I learned this the hard way at my last big barbecue..)
Cook about 70 or 80 minutes, turning once. Allow chicken to rest 10 minutes before cutting.