A vote for putting chicken in every barbecue kettle


DURING THE Baltimore mayoral primary, I kept waiting to hear a candidate promise that, if elected, he would put a chicken in every barbecue kettle. Maybe I missed it, but nobody I heard ever mentioned chicken.

Among the Demo- crats, Carl Stokes wanted to put brooms in residents' hands to clean up the city. Martin O'Malley wanted to put in a new policing policy, and Lawrence Bell wanted to put in a City-Hall hot line.

Among the Republicans, David Tufaro wanted to cut property taxes, and Carl Adair wanted to keep the city from getting too crowded.

Now that the primary -- the prime promise season -- is over, I feel I am going to have to take matters into my own hands and roast my own chicken in my own kettle.

I chose chicken because it is an ideal candidate for supper. It has a broad constituency. Almost everyone likes it, including picky eaters.

I chose the barbecue kettle as my cooking method because of experience. I have spent many hours cooking items on the barbecue. I like the "experience" of being outdoors, with my cold beverage, subjecting supper to smoke and fire.

Even though the centerpiece of this supper is an old-timer -- roasted chicken -- it also has a new and exciting companion. Potatoes are skinned and sliced in a fancy way, which makes them look like a paper fan. Talk about appeal. When you transform plain old everyday spuds into "potato fans," you're a comer.

Another winsome aspect of this dish, especially for those who were not victorious in yesterday's primary, is that roasted chicken is comfort food.

Grill Roasted Chicken With Potato Fans

Serves 4

1 roasting chicken, 5-6 pounds

1 lemon, cut in half

salt and freshly ground black pepper

several sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, sage or parsley

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 baking potatoes, about 1/2 pound each, peeled

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare fire in barbecue kettle, with coals to the side.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub inside and outside of chicken with cut side of lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the herbs inside the chicken. Rub the chicken skin with oil.

Truss the chicken, using kitchen string. Cross the drumsticks, tie them together, then tie wings close to the body.

To prepare the potatoes, slice each crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals, cutting only three-fourths of the way through. The slices must remain attached. Brush the potatoes with the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, breast-side down, on the center of the rack, with coals to the side. Place the potatoes, cut-side up, alongside the bird. Cover the grill and open the top vents halfway.

After 30 minutes, turn the chicken breast-side up, and turn the potatoes cut-side down. Cook the chicken until the juices run clear when the thigh joint is pierced or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the breast, about 1 hour. The potatoes should be tender in about the same amount of time.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes, while keeping potatoes warm on the grill. Snip the strings and carve the chicken. Arrange potatoes alongside.

-- Adapted from "Outdoor Cooking" (Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library, Time-Life Books, 1997)

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