I’m not sure if it’s cabin fever, or a deficit in my consumption of Zapp’s potato chips--but I’ve been dreaming about Saturday mornings at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou. Live broadcast of Zydeco, packed dance floor by the time most of us reach for our first cup of coffee, brunch and cold beer consumed soon after. Unfortunately, there’s no Cajun boot-scooting in my immediate future, so I’ll have to cook myself there.
The fun thing about playing with spice blends is that they transport a weeknight staple, chicken and rice, for instance, to a new locale. Take the following recipe. After I coat a chicken in Cajun seasonings, I’m inspired to give the rest of the meal a spin that would do Southwest Louisiana proud. (I tossed the rice with thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice and sliced green olives.)
You can ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, but removing the backbone (so the chicken lays flat) with a good pair of poultry shears is super easy. Regardless, hang onto that backbone (unless you want to be haunted by a Cajun Granny) so you can smoke it alongside your bird and use it to make stock.
One 4- to 4 ½-pound chicken, back and wing tips removed (ask your butcher to spatchcock it for you)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Chica Licka Bam Bam
Lemon wedges, for serving
Louisiana-style hot sauce, for serving
Pat the chicken dry and drizzle both sides with enough olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle with Chicken Licka Bam Bam, using your hands to evenly coat the entire surface of the bird. Set chicken aside to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the grill (Note: the chicken can be seasoned and refrigerated up to a day in advance; remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.)
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking, and build a medium-high fire. Clean and oil the grates. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, remove the top cooking grate, place a disposable aluminum pan filled with 1 inch of warm on the side with no coals, and add a couple chunks of hardwood to the periphery of the fire.
Close the grill and vent the grill for smoking. When the fire begins producing a steady stream of smoke, place the seasoned chicken, skin-side up, directly on the grates over indirect heat. Close grill and cook until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175°F, about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet to rest for at least 10 minutes, and then carve as desired.
Place the chicken on a serving platter and top with any juices that have collected in the pan. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
Consider serving the chicken over a platter of rice that will absorb its flavorful juices. This bird would also be great with dirty rice, and/or bacon-braised green beans. Either way, passing lemon wedges and your hot sauce is essential.