KOTOPOULO STI SHARA
"Barbecue chicken is synonomous with summer".
When you think of summer you can just picture the barbecue sizzling, and to me there is nothing tastier and healthier than chicken.
There is a taverna in the northern suburbs of Athens (a place called Holargos), that is famous all over the city for its barbecue chicken. They serve small, bite size pieces of chicken, freshly cooked over hot coals from the back of the taverna, the taste of it is just out of this world, moist, tender and so tasty. They cook other meat as well, in particular lamb ribs - paidakia, but it is the barbecue chicken that has people from all over Athens flocking to their taverna in the summer to taste their food and enjoy the warm sultry Greek evenings, surrounded by trees and flowers in their own little oasis. As with many taverna's you order the meat by the kilo, or half kilo and believe me, it is so delicious you can't stop eating it.
So wonderful is this barbecue chicken, my family and I have experimented many times to try and find a recipe that produces this unique flavour. It is a secret they keep and it is hard to copy. The recipe I include here is one that I believe comes the closest to this meal, and it is a favourite with family and friends alike.
Barbecue Chicken Marinade
2 tablespoons (level) hot english mustard
1 lemon - the juice of
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
a good pinch of oregano - rigani
1 large chicken
Place all the marinade ingredients in a small screw lid jar. Close the lid tightly and shake until all the ingredients have mixed together. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. If you like you can make up a bigger batch and store in the fridge until you need it or keep any leftovers for another time.
Clean the chicken inside very thoroughly, (it doesn't come very clean from the butchers) and as we will be eating small pieces of meat off the bone, we need to make sure it is very clean around the bone/stomach area inside.
To prepare the chicken, you will need a meat cleaver to be able to chop up the chicken into small pieces.
The secret to barbecue chicken, is that because it is on the bone, you have to make sure it is cooked all through and of course, with a bone it can take longer. If you have a big piece of chicken, it will become very dried up or burnt, before it is cooked through to the bone. By chopping it into small pieces, the chicken will stay moist and tender until cooked.
If you want the skin left on the chicken there are 2 ways to prepare and clean the skin -
The traditional greek way:
Have the chicken ready. Place a ball of cotton into the sink (emptied) and soak it with white spirits/alcohol.
Light the cotton up (it will flame) and hold the chicken over the flame to scorch any hairs etc, still left on the skin.
Obviously, you have to be very careful when doing this, that you don't catch fire to anything!
The modern way:
Using a small gas torch (which people use on foods such as creme brulee), wipe the gas flame over the chicken slowly, again to scorch the hairs etc on the skin.
If you don't want the skin left on the chicken -
(and believe me, with this recipe, the chicken will not dry out without the skin, it will still be moist)
remove the skin from the whole chicken by pulling the skin from the neck to the legs. It may get stuck on the ends of the legs.
This is my preferred method.
Using a meat cleaver, we will now cut up the chicken into small pieces about 1 inch thick, it is important that all the pieces are about the same thickness for cooking evenly, (the lengths can vary).
First cut off the bone at the end of the legs along with the skin which just can't be pulled off from there - it needs to be cut.
Using a boning knife or similar, cut off the wings and both legs. The wings are ok as they are, put them into a bowl ready to receive all the pieces.
Again using the meat cleaver, taking both legs, you need to chop them in 2 or 3 places along the leg (depending on their size) to create 3 or 4 small pieces.
The idea is not to have the chicken too chunky - they all have to be the same thickness - approx 1 inch thick.
Chop the body down the breastbone to have 2 halves.
(If you haven't cleaned the inside of the chicken, now is the best time to thoroughly clean the inside.)
Starting with 1 half, start chopping from 1 end to the other, slices approx 1 inch thick. Repeat with the other half of the chicken.
Using a brush, coat each piece all over with the marinade and put in a bowl. Repeat with every piece. (Do not just put all the meat in a bowl and toss in the marinade as it will not taste the same.)
Leave the meat to infuse with the flavours of the marinade. At a minimum of 30 minutes but a couple of hours is ideal for a great tasting barbecue chicken.
Place the chicken pieces in a barbecue cage (for your convenience so you don't have to turn each piece individually.)
Sprinkle more salt, pepper and oregano - or greek rigani if you can find it - on both sides of the chicken and place on the barbecue grill (not the plate).
If using a gas bbq, you will need to cook this on medium heat. You will need to be attentive to it the whole time.
Once juices run through the meat and reach the other side and then drop onto the flames it will produce a thick smoke. This is when you will need to turn the meat over. Keep doing this each time this happens, maybe turning it up to 10 times.
You don't want juices still running out of the barbecue chicken when it is ready, but it still needs to be moist and to have a golden brown colour on the outside. It will take about 10-15 minutes to prepare the chicken to marinade stage and then about 15-20 minutes to cook.
It is a trial and error that you will master with a little time, but once you do you will be able to produce some magnificently tasting meals instead of some little tough burnt offerings! Once you do , you will be hailed the barbecue King or Queen!
Serve barbecue chicken with an assortment of Greek appetizers and side dishes, such as Tzatziki, a fresh Greek Salad, french fries and Fried Zucchini and Eggplant
Kali Orexi - Bon Appetit
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