Half the fun of any kind of cooking is experimenting with something new, and that’s as true at the grill as in the kitchen.
First we change up the usual meat rub by toasting the spice – in this case, cumin – before it’s combined with the other rub ingredients so the flavor is intensified.
Then there’s the salsa – it’s grilled! – to provide a cool complement to the spicier chicken.
Made from tomatillos, which look like small green tomatoes with papery husks, these are placed over a hot flame, along with a jalapeno, until they all blister, which will provide a smoky flavor to the salsa.
You will need a grill screen or basket for the vegetables as they cook, to keep them from falling into the fire. For the sake of efficiency, make the salsa before you put the chicken on to cook.
Finally, there are the chicken thighs. How many of us reach for those at dinnertime? If drumsticks are your preference, by all means grill them instead. But this dark, meaty cut may surprise you.
For the thighs – as is true for any cut of meat on the grill – it’s best not to flip the meat repeatedly, particularly if you want it to look attractive with only a few grill marks on it. Cook one side before turning it over to cook the other. Then enjoy the combo.
CUMIN-CRUSTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH GRILLED SALSA
Serves 4 to 8.
Note: You will need a grill screen or basket to hold the tomatillos and jalapeno over the heat. From “The Total Grilling Manual: 264 Essentials for Cooking With Fire,” edited by Lisa Atwood.
1/4 cup Cumin Rub (see recipe)
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/8 cup to 1/4 cup canola oil
7 large tomatillos, papery husks removed and cut in half
1 jalapeno chile, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 to 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large bowl, combine chicken thighs and oil. Toss to coat. Transfer thighs to a platter and sprinkle evenly on all sides with Cumin Rub.
Prepare charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat; temperature inside grill should be 350 to 375 degrees. If using charcoal, bank lit coals on either side of the grill bed, leaving a strip in center without heat, and place drip pan in the center. If using gas, preheat burners, then turn off one or more burners to create cooler zone. Oil grill grate.
To make the salsa: Place tomatillos and chile on a grill screen or basket, set over direct-heat area of grill (the vegetables will fall through without it). Cook, turning as needed, until well charred on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatillos and chile to a blender, add lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and pulse until combined but still chunky. Transfer to a bowl, fold in cilantro, and season with salt. Makes about 2 cups. (The salsa can be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
To grill the chicken: Place thighs, meaty side down, over indirect-heat area of grill. Cook, turning once, until thighs are nicely grill-marked on both sides and firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes per side. Check internal temperature with a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh away from the bone; when done it should be 170 degrees. Try to turn thighs only once so they develop nice grill marks.
Transfer thighs to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve at once with salsa.
Nutrition information per each of 8 servings: 265 calories, 17 g fat, 85 mg sodium, 4 g carbohydrates, 4 g saturated fat, 2 g total sugars, 24 g protein, 75 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 3 1 / 2 medium-fat protein.
Makes about 1/3 cup.
Note: From “The Total Grilling Manual: 264 Essentials for Cooking With Fire,” edited by Lisa Atwood.
1/4 cup ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small, dry frying pan over low heat, toast cumin, stirring often, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Pour onto a plate and let cool.
Then combine cumin, paprika, brown sugar, coriander, cayenne pepper and black pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Use right away or store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month.