Seasoned With Hunger: Mesquite Grilled Chicken Breasts
I love to loiter, it’s true. On my patio, next to the faithful Weber kettle, smoke curling serenely from its old damper. It soothes me. Leaning back in the grilling chair, with a manly beverage in hand, what a pleasure it is to watch the world gently spin there, circling about thee. Oh I could do other, more productive things I suppose, but I don’t want to. Not today. Right now as the Spruce rise blackened against a pale western sky, with this beautiful bed of coals residing pit-side, well, this is all that I need. This and a few moments more patron to the pit. Moments where the Canadian geese engage in their dutiful and seemingly daily fly by, with those large, magnificent wings slicing through the cool, autumn air. And then there is the poetic turn of foliage, of once green and hardy leaves, now tinted with orange and yellow and red. Now fluttering to the earth in a showy submission to the likes of gravity and sweet time.
I fasten another button on my smoking jacket, and turn up the collar as I poke at the coals in the fading light. I find myself lingering there, staring into the fire. Loitering. Absorbing the ambiance of waning daylight, and relative warmth, and the sight still of green grass. For we northern patrons of the pit, we are quietly keen to the slow-ebbing path of the sun. We know it’s plotted course, its time to shine and when it goes dark. We are acquainted indeed with the diurnal rhythms at hand. And we see it coming now, just around the cosmic bend. The day we will be grilling supper in the dark again. The day we usher our BBQ pits over to the dark side of the moon. A campaign that up in these parts can last almost half a year. Say what you will, but this is why I loiter now. This is why I tarry in the tapered light.
On the pit tonight, mesquite smoked chicken breasts. It’s easy to do, and oh so very tasty. Join us won’t you, and we’ll tell you more about it, and how it came to be.
Simple. That was the motto tonight. I didn’t want anything too complex you see, that it would interfere with my prospect of loitering. So what we did was take two portly chicken breasts, with the bone-in of course, and oiled them up a tad to promote a more crispy skin come the end game. You’ll never regret choosing bone-in meat, people, if you have the choice that is. There is a wonderful and undeniable flavor with meat on the bone, courtesy to the marrows and other things residing with that perfect marriage in protein. Yum! It’s how man was always meant to ingest meat! On the bone, with juices running down your fore arm. Anyways, the seasoning also was pert near as simple as it gets – a sprinkle of garlic salt, and an equal dash of onion salt. Many a time I have enjoyed this simple combo with more enthusiasm than some elaborate spice rub I have concocted in the kitchen laboratory. As one of our heroes, the late, great Dick Proenneke said, “I eat simple food seasoned with hunger“. And that’s about how we rolled tonight. Simple. And hungry.
Thus atop a beautiful bed of orange-glowing coals, we tossed on one small chunk of mesquite wood, no bigger than a golf ball, to christen this meat benefactor of the smokey realm. We laid the breasts carefully over direct heat, intensely searing them there, this to get the skin good and crispy, and maybe a little charred. Flipping the meat at your pit master instincts, give the other side some time over the direct heat too. It only takes a minute or two if your fire is good and hot. Once the skin was crisp and tight, we escorted the chicken back to the cooler side of the pit, indirect as they say, opposite the hot coals. This then is where we put the lid on, top damper over the meat, where the draft catches and the wood smoke began to curl.
Glory, but these are moments a pit jockey craves, aside his faithful cooker, aromas of meaty plunder dancing in the air, mingled in mesquite. For a moment at least, and maybe even longer than that, we are exactly where we wish to be, doing precisely that which is well with our soul. And may the clouds idle by then, and the sun hold still in a gorgeous sky, it’s warm rays cast upon our shoulders, and through the dappled leaves. The simple pleasures, people, and good times patron to the pit. So when you see your favorite pit boy loitering by a good bed of coals, remember there is probably more going on there than just meat and flame. There is joy also. And this is usually the case. Amen.
Mesquite grilled chicken breasts with a crispy skin, sided with hot buttered corn, dashed in pepper, and touched in salt. Simple food seasoned with hunger. Man!