Canadians are known for low key, polite behaviour and our national day celebrations don't go too far off the rails, unless you are in Ottawa, but the holiday is marked by parades, fireworks and, due to the timing, countless back yard barbecues. Pretty soon if the trends continue we'll be forced to choose between Canada Day celebrations and game seven of the Stanley Cup final but for now we are fine. The back yard bbq, or grill technically, is a bit of an issue this year as I try to stay regional and since it's the start of Sockeye season generally a whole fish, stuffed with lemons and fennel and bathed in olive oil would go on the Weber but this year I have dinner guests who "aren't fond of fish" plus two non red meat eaters so .......what to do ? Fortunately the Fraser Valley is home to any number of free range chicken producers so I grabbed a couple of 4 pound birds and brined them overnight in a simple salt water brine with the addition of peppercorns, garlic cloves and lemon peel.
Once out of the brine the birds were patted dry, spatch cocked and rubbed with a dry rub of salt, pepper, sage, ground fennel seed and mustard powder and left to come to room temperature while the grill heated up . I am a traditionalist and use lump charcoal and hardwood in my grill, no gas and certainly no briquettes, so it takes about 30 minutes for the fire to reach searing hot. While the grill heats and the birds sit I trimmed and blanched green beans and julienned bell peppers and tossed them lightly in olive oil, kosher salt and lemon zest for later grilling. Once the fire is hot the chicken gets grilled, my Weber is not big enough to cook both birds at once so one was cooked then put in a low oven while the other was grilled then the first one got a short re-grilling to bring the temperature back up.
Grilling skin on, bone in chicken is a much discussed topic in the world of outdoor cooking, you can easily go blind reading the various permutations and combinations of how and why but for whole bird here is my method. The idea is to have a bird with crispy charred skin that is still moist inside so this involves two different heat components, searing high heat for the crisping and moderate heat to cook the bird through while leaving it moist . To accomplish this on a wood grill you simply stack your coals on one half of the grill, meat placed directly over the coals get very high heat while meat placed on the side without coals gets "indirect heat" less hot but still hot if you get my drift. A whole bird needs both and the intuitive method is to sear first and then move to the indirect heat to finish ....... this is wrong. A bird cannot start to crisp until most of the fat and moisture are rendered so by placing the bird on the indirect side you allow the rendering to take place first, I place the bird skin side up on the cool side with the legs facing the heat to get that dark meat a little jump start.
Grilling chicken really needs a meat thermometer, otherwise it's just guess work and disasters will happen, check the bird at the thigh joints and when it gets to about 140 degrees then flip the bird, not in the English style but actually turn the bird over and place skin side down over the hot coals until the skin crisps and chars, remove the bird and let it rest 10 minutes then carve and serve. I generally use the resting period to grill the veggies and that's what I did yesterday. Also as soon as I take the bird off the flame I brush it with a compound butter, yesterday I used garlic, lemon and Italian parsley. Along with the grilled birds were the grilled green beans and peppers, Caesar and potato salads, sadly no bacon, and dessert was fresh blueberry tarts.
The beverages were all Canadian, craft beer and hard cider to start and then Tinhorn Gewurztraminer and Osoyoos Larose - Petales D'Osoyoos with dinner. The Gewurztraminer is a classic Okanagan style, featuring crisp lychee, peach and ginger spice, it is dry but floral and while I personally would like a bit more acid it was a nice partner with the bird. The red Bordeaux from Osoyoos-Larose was from the 2011 vintage, a cooler more difficult vintage for the Okanagan, the blend is heavily weighted toward Merlot, 67% with almost equal parts Cab Sauv and Cab Franc then a little bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. I have always enjoyed this "second label" blend and two plus years of bottle aging, after 16 months in oak, have softened out the edges nicely. Red berries are dominant in the flavour with a touch of vanilla from the oak and a little mocha in the mouth, the added bottle age has softened out some of the greener, leafy Merlot character I noticed when I tasted this last in October 2014 and with 15 minutes of air it was really quite delicious, it's tough for me to really get behind BC Bordeaux blend at $25 but this is awfully tasty.
All in all a good day, finished off with the blueberry tarts on the front porch with the sun down but still enough light not to need candles at 9:30pm. Oh Canada indeed.