We are trying to capture a few precious days of still here on our Lummi Island farm. Summer finally arrived and with clipped grass and enough inside cleaning to feel comfortable, we are enjoying the simple elegance of this place.
When you wait for a whole year to return to a place you may have a lot of goals to accomplish with it in a short time. We have had summers like that, for sure, but this summer we aren’t feeling particularly ambitious and more jealous of capturing a little serenity. However, we want to launch some improvement to the place that we can enjoy in seasons to come. We agreed to add a small orchard to compliment the ancient, craggy trees that have lived here for at least 1/2 a century. Every year we lose limbs and some years, entire trees so we need to reinvest in our orchard.
What a rewarding project for a few short hours. First there was no orchard and then there was an orchard. Now fingers crossed they will survive the ocean winds and the incessant nibbles of deer.
We chose several of what amount to a snack-pack of trees. Our cherry, plum, and pear trees have grafts of 5 different varieties on each tree. If you are an experienced orchardist and know this to be a poor choice of tree, please don’t tell us. We are enjoying a Garden of Eden fantasy about strolling through our tiny, fruit paradise and picking a different variety with each handful. I guess our biggest worry should be that we don’t lose the branch bearing our pollinator, though the garden shop owner couldn’t tell us which one that would be. We will just know when we never, ever get a pear.
We are cooking almost every dinner on our cowboy campfire pit, over charcoal. The smell of charcoal smoke is soothing in the evening and we are getting some good results here. This recipe is from July 2012 Bon Appetit.
Chicken Under a Brick with Avocados and Chiles
This technique encourages even cooking with the crispiest skin imaginable. The key to success is to cook the chicken over medium-low coals so the skin slowly renders out the fat.
- 1 3 1/2–4-pound chicken, backbone removed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 large fresh poblano chile, quartered, seeded
- 1 large red bell pepper, quartered, seeded
- 1 red onion, cut into 1/2″ slices
- 1/4 cup (or more) red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 4 avocados, halved and pitted
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Open chicken and place on a work surface, skin side up. Using your palms, firmly press on breastbone to flatten the breast. Season chicken all over with 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and cayenne. Place in a baking dish; rub with 1 Tbsp. oil, sprinkle with lemon zest, and scatter rosemary over. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Build a medium-low fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. Place chicken, skin side down, on grill and place a brick or heavy skillet on top of chicken to weigh it down. (This will expose more skin to direct heat, making it crispy; the chicken will also cook faster.) Cook until skin is crispy and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Using tongs, set brick aside. Turn chicken, cover grill, and cook for 10 more minutes. Continue cooking and turning chicken every 10 minutes, covering grill between turns, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°, about 50 minutes total. Transfer to a carving board; let chicken rest for 10–20 minutes. (Resting will make for juicier meat.) Transfer to a carving board; let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
While chicken rests, add more coals to fire if necessary to increase heat to medium, or heat gas grill to medium-high. Season chile, bell pepper, and onion with salt and pepper. Grill (or use a grill basket) over medium heat, turning occasionally, until softened and charred in spots, about 12 minutes. Transfer onion to a medium bowl. Transfer chiles and peppers to a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1-inch slices. Add to bowl with onion. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to vegetables and toss to coat.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until soft but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add basil and stir to wilt. Add basil mixture to bowl with onion. Season vegetables to taste with salt and more vinegar, if desired.
Rub cut side of avocados with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, season with salt, and sprinkle with chili powder. Grill, cut side down, until avocado is gently warmed and flesh is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Serve chicken with vegetables and avocados.