I've been a bit sidetracked from my stated aims for this summer's outdoor cooking season. Not a burger or pizza in sight. Instead, we've been trying a few other things, and have had great success with poultry. So much so that the burgers might have to wait until next summer!
It started with a compromise.
I had in mind to make some potstickers, and I'd bought pork mince, prawns and duck breasts to give myself some options for the filling. But then it turned out to be a really beautiful day and it would have been wrong not to light the Weber. So there was some discussion and some disagreement and it was eventually decided that I'd do pork & prawn dumplings, and that Paul would barbecue the duck breasts.
We slashed the skin on the breasts, not cutting through the flesh, and rubbed in some salt. Paul made a small fire (1 easy-light bag of charcoal) in the centre of the Weber. Once the fire had burned down the duck breasts went skin-side down, to one side of the fire and then he added a couple of tablespoons of lapsang souchong tea, soaked in a little water to the coals. The lid went on top, with the vent right over the duck to encourage the flow of smoke. After 12 minutes, the lid came off, the duck was turned over and finished over direct heat for 8 minutes.
After a couple of minutes resting, the fragrant, tea-smoked duck breasts were sliced and served with edamame, beanshoots pickled with beetroot, pork and mushroom potstickers and steamed pork, prawn and water chestnut dumplings.
The fat had rendered out of the duck, the skin was crisp and the smoke flavour subtle but delicious. Amazing. There is a use for lapsang souchong! Who knew? The duck wasn't perfect. I think next time it'd get a bit longer in the smoke - maybe 18 minutes indirect cooking on the smoke and then a quick 5 minute cook on direct heat to finish. Although it would be a longer cook time, it would end up slightly less well-done because of the gentler indirect heat.
Of course, having started so well, we both thought that we should do more poultry on the barbecue. As it'd been ages since we'd last had roast chicken, we thought a whole chook on the barbecue would be just the ticket!
I just untrussed it, to help the air circulate around it, and stuck half a lemon in the cavity. It was a medium-sized chicken - about 1.3kg - so we planned to give it about an hour of cook time.
Paul built two fires, on either side of a drip tray of water, added a good handful of soaked hickory chips to the coals, placed the chicken in the middle and put on the lid.
After about 40 minutes, a halved aubergine joined the chicken. Then after another 10 minutes the lid came off and some asparagus rolled in olive oil went onto direct heat to finish.
The chicken was absolutely delicious! Deeply smokey, very moist and just perfect. A crunchy little salad (more pickled beanshoots and some cubed cucumber) provided a nice tangy contrast, but some coleslaw would also have been very good. The leftovers were wonderful the next day.
I think the next thing is going to be a whole duck. Or maybe pigeon breasts. Or possibly chicken kebabs. So many options!