My husband has perfected grilling chicken – over wood coals, that is. He’s been intently studying (for several years now) how our Italian neighbors and friends – and some perfect strangers – barbecue using only wood. It’s practically an art form, I’ve come to realize, and after trial by fire (so to speak) Luigi has nailed it. He’s long mastered fish (his grilled trout and orata are divine) and la bistecca is a breeze, but chicken … well, he just hasn’t been able to achieve his own high grilling standards. Until this summer, that is.
Between the herb rub and the slow cooking method that he uses, I can attest that Luigi’s grilled chicken is the best I’ve ever tasted. Hands down.
It all starts with generous amounts of fresh herbs and spices … and at least 3 hours of preparation and cooking time (more below) …
To be honest, the process of making Luigi’s grilled chicken is as enjoyable as the end result, because it makes for a fabulous – very leisurely – way to spend warm summer evening with friends, family or your significant other. 🙂
If you have access to a BBQ in which you can use wood, here’s Luigi’s recipe for pollo alla brace.
- 1 whole chicken, split and “butterflied”
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped fine
- 1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped fine
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (or more if you prefer it spicier)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 large lemon, cut into chunks
In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except for the chopped lemon. Wash and pat dry the chicken, then place it in a baking pan or large dish. Apply the herb rub with your hands. Luigi presses the mixture firmly onto both sides of the chicken, coating every surface. Place the herb-coated chicken in the refrigerator for about one hour.
Meanwhile, start the wood fire. I won’t go into the finer details about wood fires in this post, but the idea is to build a relatively substantial fire, and then allow it to burn down to very hot coals that will smolder – red hot – for more than an hour.
Place the chicken on a grate, and adjust the grate to a higher position on the BBQ grill so that it doesn’t cook too quickly or char. Lower the grate, as needed, as the heat from the wood coals lessens.
Luigi cooks the chicken for 30-35 minutes per side – a total of about one hour – topping it with the cut lemons when he turns it over.
Meanwhile you can just enjoy the summer evening, right? This is where a sipping a bit of vino or nibbling on a light appetizer can be really nice. Or sometimes I just hang out on the terrace with Luigi and read – or visit with Topolina (our neighbor’s sweet little cat).
When the chicken is done it will be dark, golden brown and crispy. You might pair it with a light-bodied red wine (that’s what we do) and serve it alongside a fresh, green insalata.
Pamela Haack is an Italy travel consultant and author of Off the Beaten Strada: Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites. She specializes in creating group trips and personalized experiences for travelers who enjoy active vacations in Italy – off the beaten strada.
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