Summer Grilling: Spiced Butterflied Chicken with Tahini Yogurt and Mint Chimichurri

 

Summer weather has finally arrived in New York City and with that an entirely new world of possibilities has opened up. Picnics in the park, drinks at a rooftop bar, and weekend beach escapes are just a few of the many options that New Yorkers have as an outlet to beat the scorching heat. Personally, I think nothing screams summer more than a barbecue.

Grilling outside feels primal somehow. Cooking outdoors over an open flame harkens back to the very first cooking methods, and even though we have evolved, it is still one of the most delicious. I love the crisp char of grilled meat or vegetables coupled with the smoky aroma that they release into the breeze. Over time, I have learned through trial and error what works best on the grill versus what proves to be a very messy or frustrating experience. In the end, the biggest problem for me has always been striking the balance between having an enjoyable outdoor grilling experience while keeping in mind that I live New York City, a place with almost no nature and an extremely low tolerance for open flames.

Once, about a year back, I got the opportunity to take a day off from chef life and attend a backyard party in the Lower East Side. The afternoon was beautiful, the drinks were flowing and the vision of so many “artisanal” bratwursts was a sight to behold. I watched as the grill was piled with burgers, steaks and franks. The grill cracked and popped at the influx of raw ingredients and flames began to lick up over the grate. The grill was obviously overloaded, but I was hesitant to jump into chef mode. Onlookers observed as the small flames and wisps of smoke steadily grew. The mood quickly escalated into panic as a full-fledged fire emerged and began to dance around the telephone wires six feet up. All ended quickly and safely but I have been forever traumatized by my first New York City grilling experience.

 
Summer grilling at sunset

I have since dedicated much time and practice to learning the art and grace of outdoor grilling. Cooking on my own rooftop has become an amazing dinnertime ritual now that the weather allows and the sun stays up later. Rian and I frequently experiment with new glazes or rubs, so I thought I would share last night’s delicious endeavor of grilling a butterflied chicken. This was a play on a chicken tagine that we have been making for clients of late. The result wa
s a charred and flavorful crust that gave way to tender and juicy meat. We enjoyed the entire bird over a swoosh of Tahini Yogurt and topped with a drizzle of mint chimichurri. I have since decided that I never want to go back to traditional roasting.

 

For the Chicken:

1 Chicken, butterflied

1 tbs chili powder

1 tbs Cumin

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1 tbs Smoked paprika

1 tbs Ground Coriander

1 tbs olive oil

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup mint

1 clove garlic

2 tbs parsley

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

pinch of salt

To make the chimichurri: combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped finely. Allow to rest and develop the flavors.

To make the chicken: In a bowl, combine the spices, garlic and olive oil until a paste forms. Rub the paste under the skin of the chicken and on top until evenly coated. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt and pepper on top and head toward the grill!

Turn the grill on medium high and cook skin side down for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve scattered with cracked green olives, a dollop of tahini yogurt and a drizzle with chimichurri.

With Love,  Kristina

 

Build-Your-Own Taco Fiesta

Despite the fact that we spend the majority of our days cooking for others, Laura, Kristina, Rian and I typically head straight into our own kitchens the moment we walk through our front doors at the end of the day. Nourishing ourselves is the ultimate form of self-care, and nourishing our friends is how we show our love. So, when Kristina’s 25th birthday rolled around last month, we knew a dinner party in her honor was in order.

While I’m sure the idea of a “dinner party” conjures up images of carefully set dining tables and anxieties of perfectly timed meals, that’s not usually how we entertain at home. On our own time, we aim to maximize our guests’ enjoyment while minimizing the amount of work it takes to create a wow-factor. Nine times out of ten, the path to this is a BYO (i.e. build-your-own) meal.

When in comes to BYO, tacos are the gold standard. A spread of charred corn tortillas, spiced meat, fish or poultry, stewed beans, a roasted veg or two, and an array of raw toppings like fresh herbs, sliced avocado and shredded cheese never, and I mean never, disappoints. Tacos satisfy meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, picky eaters, gluten-abstainers, kids, adults, those who aren’t that hungry, those who are starved…you get the idea.

And for hosts, they’re a dream. You can begin your prep a day or two in advance by fitting small tasks into your schedule like shaving radishes and picking herbs while your morning coffee is brewing. If your smart about it, by the time the party rolls around, you only have a few finishing touches before you pour yourself a drink.

There are endless variations on tacos, from seasonal veggies to wholesome proteins. Staples are charred corn tortillas, an abundance of herbs (especially mint, cilantro and scallions), toasted pepitas, lime wedges, and a sprinkle of chili powder, cumin and/or granulated garlic on whatever’s going in the oven if you’re keeping the theme tex-mex.

A few of our go-to toppings:

  • Non-vegetarian proteins
    • Braised chicken thighs with chili-garlic-cumin broth (try this recipe)
    • Pork carnitas with chili powder and cumin (see below)
    • Mild white fish like cod, mahi mahi or halibut roasted or pan fried with chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and granulated garlic (try this recipe)
    • Pulled store-bought rotisserie chicken (easy!)
    • Seared and thinly sliced skirt steak marinated with lime/orange juice, fresh garlic, and olive oil if there’s time
    • Pan-fried shrimp finished with lime and lemon zest and juice, fresh cilantro and minced jalapenos (try this recipe)
  • Legumes (vegan proteins)
    • Black beans
    • Pinto beans
    • Lentils
  • Vegetables
    • Sliced cherry tomatoes or salsa fresca (try this recipe)
    • Thinly sliced radish
    • Thinly sliced cucumber
    • Avocado (or guac)
    • Roasted sweet potatoes
    • Roasted or grilled eggplant
    • Roasted or grilled zucchini
    • Roasted or grilled poblanos or other peppers
    • Roasted cauliflower
    • Roasted broccoli
    • Roasted brussels sprouts
    • Roasted winter squash
    • Roasted red onion
    • Roasted or grilled asparagus
  • Dairy/cheeses
    • Whole or 2% Greek yogurt
    • Crumbled feta
    • Crumbled cojita or queso fresca
    • Shredded cheddar or monterey jack
    • Crumbled goat cheese

For Kristina’s BYO taco party, we catered the fixings to the guest of honor. We prepared some of her favorite seasonal ingredients: sweet potatoes, cauliflower and red onion roasted with cumin and chili powder, homemade salsa fresca, avocado, tortilla chips, whole milk Greek yogurt, and Boston lettuce shells to please our carb-averse friends. For the meat lovers in the room, we got a hunk of pork butt for juicy pork carnitas to pair with seared pineapple.

Here are the steps we took to create this tasty centerpiece to Kristina’s 25th birthday dinner party:

Note those slippers:)

Cut the meat in about 2’ chunks (not precisely, it’s being pulled later).

Season with a good amount of salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cumin seeds and minced garlic to coat each piece.

In batches, brown the meat on each side in a large pot coated with oil of choice.

Add all the meat back to the pot along with roughly chopped white onion.

Put it in the oven for at least 3 hours at 325 degrees until the pork falls apart.

And Voilà! Serve it right out of the oven just as your friends are arriving. They’ll be so impressed by the overwhelmingly delicious aroma and the presentation straight from the pot!

HBD KRISTINA!! We Love you!! xo Charlotte

Kristina’s Salsa Verde

Chickpea and farro salad with fennel radish and salsa verde

The more you cook, the more you develop your signature style. Anyone who eats our food knows that well toasted nuts, strategically placed cheese and tons of citrus are a few of the What We Eat team’s hallmarks. But if there is one thing that defines our cooking, it’s our ridiculously abundant use of fresh herbs.

There is no better way to impart explosive flavor than with fresh herbs. Mint, cilantro, parsley and scallions are constants on our grocery lists, but we also reserve a place in our hearts for tarragon, basil, sage and dill. Of course, there are many others, but having the above on hand at any given time is crucial to the success of any meal.

Smorgasbord with Salsa Verde

An added perk to our herb obsession is that we find ourselves with an surplus of odds and ends at the end of the week…a few stems sprouting sad broken parsley leaves, a handful of bruised cilantro or one lone sprig of rosemary. What to do with these little bits that are too often thrown away as casualty or waste? There is a simple answer, a lesson I learned years ago that has since been held close and always remembered. Let me paint a picture for you…

It was 2010. I was sitting outside at an Italian bistro, sipping chilled white wine, awaiting my meal, a perfect day. Then the roast chicken was placed in front of me. After savoring my first bite of the tender meat, I questioned aloud, “What is it that makes this simple meal so unbelievably amazing?” As they say, the secret is in the sauce.

Roast chicken with lemon zest and salsa verde green sauce

Drizzled across the crisp and charred chicken skin was a thin but vibrantly green dressing, the ingredients of which were so frustratingly mysterious and difficult to pinpoint that it warranted further investigation. My helpful waiter informed me it was salsa verde (aka green sauce), a mix of whatever herbs they had on hand. Herbs + olive oil + blender = magical sauce served as an accoutrement to any dish from red meats to poultry, fish or vegetables. This aha moment will forever stick with me. Salsa verde, the endlessly versatile little black dress of sauces, appears as a star in many of my meals. It’s my signature.

Therefore, it is finally time to share the recipe for my secret sauce. Keep in mind that certain ingredients may be omitted or altered, but that the recipe below is what I have found to be the tastiest. I’ve gotten Laura and Rian hooked on it as well, so next time one of them makes you something with an impossibly delicious green sauce, you’ll know who deserves credit.

With love, Kristina:)

Salsa Verde

  • 1/3 cup basil
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1/3 cup parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons chives
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 1 tablespoon dill
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1-3 anchovy fillets
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4th teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil

Roughly chop all herbs, garlic and anchovies and then place all ingredients other than the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse the contents of the food processor and then gradually stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

The end result should be a vibrantly green sauce in which the original integrity of some of the herbs is still apparent. This means that it should look like more of a rough chop rather than a paste or puree. We like to keep it rustic. Drizzle over any meal of choice and serve. Enjoy!

Roast carrot and egg salad with salsa verde