Eric Akis: BBQ chicken pairs well with grilled vegetables

Eric Akis

When I barbecue chicken pieces and flavour them Mediterranean-style, with such things as olive oil, lemon, spices, herbs and garlic, I’ll often serve them with grilled vegetables. The two pair well together, and when both are cooked I’ll arrange them on separate platters, set them on the dining table and let folks dig in.

Recently, though, I thought, because the two do pair well together, why not just serve them on one large platter instead, so I did that in today’s recipe. The end result was the delicious display of food you see in the photograph.

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To prepare it, I grilled a mix of cut and whole vegetables on my barbecue and set them on a baking sheet. I then cooked my chicken thighs and drumsticks, which were marinated with the flavourings noted above, using the indirect-heat method.

If you not tried it before, the process begins by grilling the chicken pieces directly over the flame a few minutes, until the exterior is nicely coloured. You then move the chicken to one side of the barbecue and turn the heat off underneath it. The heat on the other side of barbecue is left on.

You now close the lid of the barbecue and it begins to act almost like a convection oven, with the heat rising on one side, hitting the lid and rolling around to the unlit side. As it does, it cooks the chicken without the flames directly touching and scorching it.

When my chicken was almost cooked, I warmed up my grilled vegetables in the oven a few minutes, and then arranged them on a large platter. I then flavoured them with such things as extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crumbled goat cheese. I then set my cooked chicken on top of vegetables and added a few garnishes. To round out the meal, I served the chicken and grilled vegetables with some boiled B.C. nugget potatoes, which are in season now. Once in the serving bowl, I flavoured those potatoes with a drizzle of melted butter, and a sprinkling of snipped chives, salt and pepper.

Mediterranean-style BBQ Chicken With Grilled Vegetables

Smoky, juicy, herb-, spice-, lemon- and garlic-flavoured chicken, set on a flavourful mix of grilled vegetables.

Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: About 45 minutes

Makes: six servings

For the chicken

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

6 chicken bone-in thighs

6 chicken drumsticks

• salt to taste

For the vegetables and garnishes

1 medium onion, halved and cut into 12 wedges

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 small to medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 medium portobello mushrooms, each cut into 1/2-inch slices

6 mini bell peppers (see Note)

2 to 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

100 grams soft goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

• fresh oregano sprigs and lemon slices, for garnish

Combine the first nine ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add the chicken and turn to coat.

Cover, refrigerate and marinate chicken four to eight hours, turning occasionally.

When chicken has marinated, preheat your barbecue to medium-high, about 400 F in the chamber.

Place onions, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and peppers on large baking sheet. Drizzle vegetables with 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and turn to coat.

Grill the vegetables, in batches, two minutes per side, or until tender and lightly charred. Set cooked vegetables back on the baking sheet.

Season the chicken with salt, and then set on the barbecue. Grill the chicken two to three minutes per side, or until the exterior is nicely coloured.

Move the chicken to one side of the barbecue. Turn the heat off on that side of the barbecue; leave the other side at medium-high.

Close the barbecue lid and cook the chicken, turning it from time to time, for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through and the temperature of the chicken pieces reach 165 F (74 C) when checked with an instant-read meat thermometer.

When chicken is 20 minutes from being cooked, heat your oven to 350 F. When chicken is 10 minutes from being cooked, pop your grilled vegetables into the oven for five minutes, until hot again.

Arrange the vegetables on a large platter. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Set some crumbled pieces of goat cheese (or feta) on and around the vegetables.

Now arrange the cooked pieces of chicken on top of vegetables. Garnish with oregano sprigs and lemon slices, and serve.

Note: Mini bell peppers, each about 3 1/2-inches long and 1 1/2-inches wide, are sold in bags at some supermarkets. If you can’t find them, buy a large red or yellow bell pepper, cut it into wedges, and grill them for this recipe.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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