Grill dishes from poultry: how to prepare them and what to pair them with?
Many people can hardly imagine their summer weekend without grill dishes. However, over time, one starts craving new tastes and their combinations. Even though pork, so beloved by Lithuanians, undoubtedly remains a popular choice, it’s gradually giving way on the grill to white meat—chicken or turkey. Grilling master of the Lithuania Grilling and Smoking community Tomas Petryla and Vilkmergė beer sommelier Vidmantas Čičelis give tips on how to properly prepare meat of this sort and what beverages to pair it with.
Spices for marinating: from Lithuanian to exotic ones
The secret to a good dish, regardless of where it's cooked, is fresh and quality meat. Correctly grilled, even though sparsely seasoned with spices, the meat will be juicy and delicious: 'There is probably no other type of meat compatible with so many spices as poultry: from the usual thyme, rosemary, or all kinds of chili to exotic ones, such as the galangal root or kaffir lime leaves. You can give the chicken or turkey a distinct taste of Asia, Africa, or any other region by seasoning it with spices or marinades characteristic of that region. For those searching for something unusual, I recommend trying out marinating with seafood or shrimp pastas. Whatever spices you choose, they will perfectly complement the fairly neutral taste of poultry'.
According to the grilling master T. Petryla, there are two methods of marinating meat: dry and wet. In case of the first one, meat is marinated with a mixture of salt and spices, the second one —using liquid ingredients, such as yogurts, citrus juices, high quality oils, and spices. One should not be concerned that marinating the poultry with salt before cooking will result in it being dry. Even though at first it does stimulate release of water, the moisture is then absorbed back. That's why the master suggests keeping the meat in a cool place for about 12 hours when marinating it this way.
Different cooking methods for different sizes of the dish
A certain size of the dish requires a certain cooking method. For instance, smoking and the BBQ method, when the meat is cooked with indirect heat, is usually used for preparing a whole bird or its large parts meanwhile smaller parts, such as wings, thighs, breast or skewers, are more suitable for cooking with direct heat. This will not only make the cooking process quick, but the poultry is going to be brown and caramelised from the outside.
'Regardless of what marinade or cooking method we choose, in order for the meat to be juicy, it's important not to overcook it. If you don't feel like cutting the dish and checking the inside of the poultry, you can use special thermometers designed for measuring the inside temperature of the meat. Once it reaches 74 degrees, the poultry is going to be fully cooked and juicy,' the expert explains.
Type of wood used plays an important part in the cooking process as well. Most suitable for poultry is apple, cherry, or maple wood while the smoke can be seasoned by tossing fresh rosemary twigs, fragrant peppercorns, or cinnamon sticks on the coals.
A range of various tastes and aromas: what to drink?
On hot summer days or warm evenings, grill dishes call for lighter and more refreshing drinks. In order to make sure that the taste of the food is not only not masked but rather brought out, one must pay enough attention to not just the preparation and cooking of the meat or side dishes but selection of beverages as well. How not to get lost in the abundance of types, tastes, and aromas?
According to Vilkmergė beer sommelier Vidmantas Čičelis, finding the right pair for grilled white meat is not that tricky. What matters is maintaining harmony and taking the colour of the prepared poultry into account: 'Pairing food and drinks is quite straightforward once you know the key principles. One of them is colour coordination. Lighter beverages go well with lighter meat while beverages of richer, darker colours fit well with darker meat. grill dishes from chicken or turkey are usually low-fat and light; therefore, you should choose lighter, mild and refreshing beverages to go with them, such as light non-alcoholic beer. That will emphasise the palatability of the food.'
If you are unsure about a certain pairing, Vilkmergė beer sommelier encourages not to shy away from experimenting. While enjoying grilled chicken drumsticks, seasoned with exotic spices, or turkey steaks, try different kinds of a beverage. That will give you a feel which drink goes well with the chosen food and which does not.
Grill master recommends a marinade recipe for delicious chicken:
2 kg of quality chicken quarters, cut in half
0.5 teaspoon of saffron and 1 teaspoon of turmeric (if you're using saffron, pour a spoon of hot water over it and leave it for 5 minutes before putting it into the marinade)
160 ml of lemon juice
160 ml of yogurt
160 ml of extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons of finely cut parsley leaflets
1 tablespoon of fresh finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
2 onions (finely chopped and crushed, to release the juice)
20 g of salt
First, mix all the ingredients of the marinade well, then pour it over the chicken pieces, stir them lightly and cold marinate for 12 hours. Before cooking the chicken, take it out of the marinade, wipe off the pieces of onions and dry.
Grill the marinated chicken over direct fire at 200 degrees C, occasionally turning it over and coating with a glaze of melted butter, lemon juice, salt, and ground black pepper. Properly cooked chicken will have a flavour of smoke to it.