California Free-range Chicken with Smoked Chili Butter & Tobacco Onions
What appeals to Dean Fearing about the “free-range” chickens is their superior texture and flavor. Other chickens will work with the recipe, but it’s worth the effort to find these free-range chickens to see — and taste — the difference. Fearing serves this dish with his Tobacco Onions (barbecue section). The chickens can be boned and refrigerated up to a day in advance, but they must be brought to room temperature before grilling. The butter can be made up to 3 days in advance, or overwrapped in foil and frozen for up to 2 months.
Chef Dean Fearing has another take on onion rings. Using both red onion and yellow onion, he dredges them in a simple dry mixture, then fries them to a dark shade of brown — hence the name. Do not dredge the onions until the last minute, or they will give off too much moisture to fry well. Part of the Grilled California Chicken with Tobacco Onions dish from “Great Chefs of the West.”
- Smoked Bell Peppers
- Red Bell Pepper - 1
- Yellow Bell Pepper - 1
- Serrano Chili - 1, halved
- Mesquite wood - 2 or 3 small pieces, soaked in water for 1 hour
- Smoked Chili Butter
- Smoked red bell pepper - 1/4 (above)
- Smoked yellow bell pepper - 1/4 (above)
- Smoked serrano chili - 1 (above)
- Garlic - 1 small clove, peeled and minced
- Shallot - 1/2 small, peeled and minced
- Dijon mustard - 1 teaspoon
- Cilantro - 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh
- Lime Juice - 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
- Lemon Juice - 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed
- Unsalted Butter - 1/2 cup (1 stick), softened
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Free Range Chickens - Three 2-1/2 lb
- Canola Oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Tobacco Onions
- Red Onion - 1 large
- Yellow (Spanish) onion - 1 large
- Unbleached All Purpose Flour - 3 cups
- Cayenne Pepper - 1 tablespoon
- Paprika - 1 tablespoon
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Vegetable Oil - 5 cups, for frying
Free Range Chicken Recipe
To prepare the peppers: Cut the peppers in half and remove the stem, ribs, and seeds. In a smoker or covered charcoal grill used as a smoker, light a fire. When the coals are covered with light ash, move them to one side and place a drip pan on the other side of the fire box. Lay the soaked mesquite on the coals. Put the cooking grate in place and put the pepper halves on the grate over the drip pan. Cover, leaving the vent holes open. Smoke the pepper halves 15 to 20 minutes. Cool; store in the refrigerator.
To prepare the butter: Dice the bell pepper quarters and serrano chili halves very fine and put in a mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix together well. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, scrape the butter onto a long sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper, forming a straight line. Fold the paper over the butter and roll into an even cylinder about the size of a half dollar. Twist each end and place in the refrigerator until solid, about 2 hours.
To prepare the chickens: Partially bone the chickens. Cut down the breast bone and then, holding your knife with the blade to the carcass, scrape down the carcass, cutting through the wing and thigh joints. Remove the carcass and cut the bird into 2 halves. Leave the drumstick and wing bones attached and free the thigh bone, removing any fragments of joints. Cut off the wings (the trimmings may be used for stock).
Light a charcoal or gas grill. If using charcoal, let the coals heat until they are covered with light ash. Put the cooking grate in place to heat up. Coat the skin side of the chicken halves with oil and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Place the halves, skin-side down, over the medium-hot coals and grill for 7 minutes (10 minutes on a gas grill), or until the skin is golden brown. Turn and cook an additional 6 to 8 minutes on the other side, or until the meat juices run clear. Remove the birds from the grill and keep warm until ready to serve.
To serve: Place a chicken half on each plate, skin-side up. If serving Tobacco Onions, surround the chickens with the onions. Place two discs of cold smoked chili butter on each.
Tobacco Onions Recipe
Peel the onions and slice them thinly. Separate into rings and set aside.
Mix the flour and seasonings in a bowl. Heat the oil to 360 F in a deep-fryer or heavy saucepan.
Dredge some of the onion rings in the flour, shaking off the excess. Put in the oil and fry until dark golden brown. Use a large fork, like a barbecue grill fork, to keep the rings separated in the oil. When done, remove with a slotted spoon or wire skimmer and drain on paper towels. Keep warm while you fry all the onions. Do not crowd the fryer, and let the oil return to temperature between each batch. Serve immediately.