I often say I would be a lousy farmer. And by that, I specifically mean that if I had to grow my own food, I would starve to death. Not so, Marion. Over the years, she has grown many of the foods we’ve eaten – and the flowers that have dressed the dinner table – usually in the confines of a smallish backyard. This year, though, her efforts were limited to a number of herbs, several varieties of tomatoes and some habanero peppers. So when we sat down with our guests on Labor Day, we were surprised to see just how much of our dinner had come from our backyard.
For holiday grilling at our house, a potato salad is pretty much a given. Marion put together a lively one, with whole grain mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil and, from our yard, fresh tarragon and lots of chives. The tomato salad she made to augment my mixed greens salad came almost completely from the garden: three varieties of tomatoes and some torn fresh basil. All we added was table salt, not even any oil.
And then there was the fresh sage for this grilled chicken dish. Sage always does well for us in the yard, and this year, it’s going crazy. So when I saw a recipe for roast chicken with lemon thyme butter, I substituted sage for the thyme and grilling for roasting.
I started the chicken using indirect grilling with the skin side up. This let the butter and the chicken’s own fat under the skin melt over the meat, keeping it moist and tender. I then switched to direct grilling, which crisped and browned the skin nicely. And I finished the cooking indirectly, basting with more lemon sage butter to enhance the flavor.
Grilled Chicken with Lemon Sage Butter
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 each, chicken drumsticks and thighs, skin-on and bone-in
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil for the grate
1. About 1/2 hour before you’re ready to grill, remove chicken from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and sage.
2. Prepare your grill for indirect grilling. I use charcoal, so when the coals were hot, I arranged them on one side of the grill. Lightly oil the grate. Brush each side of the chicken pieces with the lemon sage butter, being sure to get bits of sage on each piece. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper.
3. Place the chicken on the grill away from the coals, skin side up. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Move chicken over the coals, skin side down, cover grill and cook until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip chicken skin side up over coals, cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Move chicken away from coals and brush generously with lemon sage butter. Cover and cook until a quick-read thermometer registers 165ºF when inserted in the thickest part of a drumstick or thigh (being careful to avoid the bone). The timing here is anyone’s guess, which is why the thermometer is an invaluable tool. Start checking after 5 or so minutes, but don’t be surprised if it takes a good deal longer.
5. Transfer to a serving platter, tent with foil and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
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