Livin’ on grilling time with Moroccan-style chicken

I grill a lot. You may have noticed this by reading southbyse.com. It is just easy since we live in such a temperate climate here in the Lowcountry. I also like the fact that with the gas grill it’s an easy cleanup and we keep the heat out of the house, especially this time of year.

Grilled chicken is a family favorite, but it can get boring – it’s chicken after all. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes and I found a great one with this Moroccan chicken. It is based on a Bon Appetite recipe from 2003 and honestly, it is almost the same. Here are the few differences and tips I have incorporated after making this many, many times:

• The original recipe calls for only olive oil but I have found that using mostly canola oil (or safflower or grape oil) is better since olive oil has a lower burn temperature.

• I also like this with drumsticks and thighs as I find grilled chicken breasts seems to dry out – plus I like the rich flavor of ‘dark meat” chicken. Oh, thighs and legs are less expensive too.

• Use bone-in chicken not boneless. The bones add flavor and give the meat something to hang on to… boneless thighs tend shrink up to nothing. By the same measure I prefer leaving the skin on as it helps keep the meat moist and makes for a prettier presentation too with a nice grill-mark sear on the grill.

This grilled chicken is a superb entrée for a crowd and since should soak awhile, it’s mostly a do-ahead recipe. You can easily double or triple this recipe. If you want to go authentic Moroccan serve with a couscous salad, grilled eggplant and mint tea. Or go Southern-style with homemade potato salad, grilled zucchini squash and Vidalia onions and iced tea (or a fairly full-bodied Chardonnay or Saint-Véran Burgundy).

Ingredients include lots of spices, fresh citrus fruits and chicken, of course.

A close up of the pretty limes, oranges and lemon. Smells divine!

This is an easy recipe. the most time consuming part is getting all the ingredients together – here is everything but the sliced fruit in a bowl. Just mix it together.

Place the chicken pieces in the bag , add the marinade and the sliced fruit. Make sure the marinade is coating the chicken and place the closed bag ( or covered bowl) in the refrigerator. During the marinade time flip the bag over a time or two.

After marinating all day this is how the chicken looks. You can discard the fruit and excess marinade. Get your grill ready!

The chicken goes onto the grill. Be sure to watch it carefully as both the oil-infused marinade and the chicken itself can cause flare-ups and burning.

Another shot of the grilled chicken. Moist and flavorful!

Grilled Chicken, Moroccan-style

  • Chicken pieces: mixed thighs and drumsticks, 12 pieces in total. Do NOT use boneless.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or safflower or grape oil)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar – mild such as rice wine vinegar
  • 2 oranges, 1 squeezed (reserve juice) and 1 sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar (Demera or light brown)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Wash and dry chicken pieces and set aside. In a bowl mix the oils, vinegar, spices and salt. Add in the juice from 1 orange. Add sliced fruits. In a large zippered plastic bag or shallow container add chicken and pour the marinade and fruit over the chicken. Cover or secure the bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate at  8-12 hours. Turn the mixture over a few times throughout the marinating time.

Prepare your grill. When ready, sear chicken pieces on the grill, careful that they do not burn. Since the marinade contains a lot of oil (and if the skin is left on the chicken) it will easily catch on fire. Grill until cooked through. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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Robust rules the grill with ancho chili lime steak

Sometimes you just feel like eating a steak and since I’ve had my cholesterol checked recently (all is well) that time is now. In recent years I have taken to buying grass fed, organic or otherwise locally farmed beef whenever my tastes turn bovine.

Small-production, grass-fed meat can be a lot more expensive than your average grain-fed beef, just as artisanal cheese costs more than industrial cheddar. So at the same time I have tended to purchase more affordable “bargain” cuts like sirloin, flank, chuck eye and skirt (my personal favorite) rather than a bone-in ribeye or porterhouse. I do realize that a bulk purchase of grass fed beef would significantly lower our over-all cost and we have considered making a freezer commitment. Unfortunately, reality set in and our current abode (a loft-style townhouse) is not roomy enough. Rest assured we will come back to this idea in the future!

Skirt and flank steak are my favorite bargain cuts. They have a rich beef flavor hiding covertly within that protein, just requiring a little thoughtful planning and a good marinade to tease what could be a tougher cut into tender submission. I play around a lot with rubs and marinades for my beef (and other meats too) and in most cases they contain garlic, some type of fruit (I’m partial to citrus) and beer, wine or alcohol, like Bourbon. Lately I’ve been loving the addition of peppers, from smoky and sublime Poblano (Ancho when dried) to kicky with chipotle, jalepeno and New Mexican varieties.

My tips for a great, marinated steak:

  • Salt just before grilling (no salt in the marinade)
  • Marinate at least 12 hours (24 is much better)
  • Allow the meat to come to room temperature (or close to it) before grilling
  • Sear the meat off on a clean, hot grill but do not flip it around too much
  • Invest in a good quality meat thermometer if you are unsure of your skills in determining meat “doneness”
  • Likewise it is not advisable to slice into a steak or other cut of beef to check its “doneness”
  • Allow the cooked meat to rest on a warmed platter, covered, before slicing and serving

Ingredients. I soak the ancho chilies in the warm syrup I make with just sugar and water.

Puree the chilies. My small food processor is the one electric kitchen tool I find indispensible. I use it almost everyday.

The chilies look like this after they are pureed.

Add the lime zest, garlic and fresh ginger to the chili puree along with the lime juice, pepper and paprika.

Beer goes in last. It doesn’t matte what brand you use – whatever brand you like. My hubby likes Belgian-style “Shock Top” so that’s what I used here.

As you may know I’m a fan of those huge zippered bags for marinating (and brining) and that’s what I’m using here too.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and sear the meat on a hot grill. I use gas but charcoal works great too. It would be a treat to use real wood coals, someday perhaps…

Here’s that beautiful flank steak, almost ready for the platter. I made this for my hubby on Father’s Day along with grilled bacon wrapped, stuffed banana peppers and grilled fresh corn on the cob. My husband’s favorites.

After removing the steak from the grill allow it to rest for a few minutes, loosely covered, before slicing. This steak was really juicy and tender to the bite with a peppery, meaty flavor.

Ancho Chili Lime Marinated Flank Steak

  • 1/3 cup Demera or brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 lime
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbl. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 beer
  • salt
  • 2 ½ – 3 lb Flank steak (or skirt or sirloin steak)

Prepare the marinade the day before you plan to grill and serve the steak. In a saucepan heat the water and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil for 30 seconds and then remove from the heat. Add the dried Ancho chilies and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and then grate or finely mince the ginger. Remove the zest from the lime and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Mince or press the garlic. Set aside.

Remove any tough stems fro the Ancho chilies and grind in a food processor or blender along with the soaking liquid. When ground, pour into a bowl and add the garlic, lime zest and juice, ginger, pepper and paprika. Pour in the beer and mix well. Wash and dry the steak. Place the steak in a very large bag or glass dish, pour marinade over and secure bag (or cover with plastic wrap).

Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours, turning the bag over 2 or 3 times during this time. When ready to cook, prepare your grill. Remove steak from bag and sprinkle liberally with salt. Sear each side and grill to your desired doneness, but I suggest rare or medium rare for best results. When grilling is complete remove to a warmed platter, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5-8 minutes before slicing across the grain.

Warning: Calories on board! Stuffed banana peppers make your grill sizzle.

Okay so this is fair warning…if you are on a diet…if you are a vegetarian…if you avoid pork. What! Now pretend you hear squealing brakes and see wheels skidding to a stop. Who in their right mind would avoid pork? Well, let me tell you…

I know a few people and that’s okay by me – for religious reasons, for health reasons, for (ahem) “I’ve never had really well prepared pork so why all the fuss” people. But today’s recipe is not for any of those people. This recipe is extra special because it is my brother’s recipe, because it uses fresh local peppers, because it uses only 3 ingredients (4 if you count toothpicks, ha-ha) and because it is so darn good!

If the picture above didn’t reel you in like a catfish to a hunk of old pork rind, then STOP because “there is something wrong with you, son” – as local restaurateur and friend Hugh Lockman would say. This recipe is not for those on a diet – so stop reading this post immediately if this means you. Well, unless you think 205 calories is not too caloric, well then, you’re approved to proceed.

What with cream cheese AND bacon?!? I know what you’re thinking but my 100% non-scientific method of calculation gives me a number of approximately 205 calories and 10 grams of fat in one of these beauties. Have smaller peppers? Then can reduce the calorie and fat number per stuffed pepper accordingly. The peppers themselves have no fat but do contain copious dietary fiber as well as vitamins A, C and E, folate, niacin, calcium and potassium. And home grown or farmers market fresh? Buckle your seat belt ‘cause those exceed the taste limit in my book.

These are favorites of my hubby, and me too. We wait all winter and most of the spring for the new crop of sweet banana peppers to arrive at the farmers market. We even set out our own plants (see previous post) in the hope of having plenty to use specifically for this recipe during the summer.

While you can certainly use hot banana peppers, we prefer mild peppers with plenty of pepper flavor, but no real heat at my house. These are very popular at summer cookouts at the beach house, at the lake, at home. And special thanks to my brother John. His recipe has brought much grilling happiness to our table, and now hopefully to yours too.

The ingredients list is minimal but the flavor is maximum!

Peak inside the pepper. You need to remove the seeds and that stringy flesh they are attached to.

This is how the peppers should look after being cleaned.

Pepper stuffed with cream cheese.

Around and around we go with the bacon. Secure with toothpicks. I try to stick the toothpick through the meat of the bacon, rather than the fat.

Ready for the freezer. The peppers came be made up to this point and stored in the freezer, for up to a day. They need to freeze at least 1 hour anyway.

Here they go onto a sizzling grill. The cooking time depends upon your grill, i.e. how hot it gets and how evenly the heat is distributed. The best way to find out is by giving the recipe a try!

These peppers are almost done! Looks like I lost a toothpick. Oh well, I call ‘cooks treat’!

Ready for the dinner table. The combo of smoky bacon and roasted peppers smells so delicious… and only 205 calories! I don’t feel too guilty.

Stuffed Banana Peppers

  • 6 large (6”) sweet banana peppers
  • 12 oz. light cream cheese (about 1 ½ packages)
  • 6 pieces bacon (I use low sodium and nitrite free whenever possible)

Wash and dry the peppers. Split each pepper down the center along the long side, careful to not cut through to the other side. Clean out all the seeds and the stringy part inside. Wash and dry the insides. Stuff each pepper with the cream cheese – about 2 oz per pepper – smoothing to cover the entire length of the pepper. Once you’ve filled all the peppers, wrap 1 piece of bacon around each and secure with toothpicks. I usually use 2 each for medium peppers and 3 for these large ones.

Place stuffed peppers on a platter or baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freeze. Can be made up to this point up to one day ahead. Freeze at least 1 hour. Fire up your grill and place the frozen peppers on the grill. Watch them carefully and rotate to cook the bacon as evenly as possible, but avoid flipping them around too much. Once the bacon is cooked – after about 10-15 minutes – remove from the grill and serve immediately.