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Cooking | Magazine

Three chicken recipes that give you a reason to fire up the grill

Looking for something new on the grill? Try Moroccan chicken skewers, piri piri chicken with chili pepper sauce, or chicken with a soy sauce tare.

Moroccan Chicken Skewers
Moroccan Chicken SkewersConnie Miller of CB Creatives
Logo for magazine's cooking column w/ Christopher Kimball and cooks of Milk Street.

It’s finally time to break out the grill, so we’ve scoured the world over for bold flavors that treat chicken right. Best yet, in these recipes, the ingredients do most of the work for you. In Japan, chicken thighs are basted with a sweetened ginger-soy seasoning liquid called tare; slashing the meat creates more surface area for the savory sauce to adhere. At a South African-style barbecue called a braai, chicken — in our case a whole spatchcocked bird— is slathered with a fiery sauce of garlic and sugar, with plenty of chili powder, lemon, and paprika. And from Morocco, tender chicken skewers get extra punch from sweet grilled lemons and a warming spice rub of ginger, cumin, and black pepper.

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Moroccan Chicken Skewers

Makes 4 servings

Grilled lemon halves topped with a drizzle of honey provide a sweet-tart counterpoint to the chicken. The chicken gets a spice rub inspired by a recipe for chermoula in Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan. Minced fresh cilantro, parsley, or mint bring bright color and herbal freshness to the dish. Use whichever you prefer, or a combination.

Thirty minutes is the maximum time to marinate the chicken, or the lemon juice and ginger will make it mushy.

3 lemons

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

2 medium garlic cloves, grated

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

3 tablespoons honey, divided

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, or mint

With a wand-style grater, grate 1 lemon to produce 1 tablespoon zest. Then squeeze the lemon to get 2 tablespoons juice. In a large bowl, stir together the zest and juice with the oil, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the honey. Add the chicken, toss, and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.

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Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Heat the broiler with a rack 4 inches from the element.

Thread the chicken onto four 12-inch metal skewers, scrunching multiple pieces onto each skewer; set the skewers on the prepared wire rack. Cut the remaining 2 lemons in half and arrange cut side up next to the chicken.

Broil until the chicken is well charred all over, 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through; the lemon halves should be charred on the cut sides.

Transfer the skewers and lemon halves to a platter. Drizzle the remaining honey over the cut sides of the lemons. Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon half over the chicken, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve with the remaining lemon halves.

Piri Piri Chicken

Makes 4 servings

Piri piri can refer to a finger-staining chili pepper sauce or to whatever the sauce douses. Its origins are Portuguese, but today it is found in South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia. Ancho, chipotle, and regular chili powders taste off in this recipe, but New Mexico or California chili powders work well. If you can’t find either, purchase whole chilies, toast and seed them, then finely grind them. Or simply leave out the chili powder and increase the paprika to ¼ cup. Fresno chilies are fresh red chilies similar in size and shape to jalapeños, but with pointy tips; if they are unavailable, fresh cherry peppers work well, too.

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Be sure to use the specified number of fresh chilies in the sauce; all eight are needed for flavor and color. To reduce spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs from the chilies before processing. Also, Thai chilies are not a good substitute for the Fresnos; they pack far more heat.

3 tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

Kosher salt

4- to 4½-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked (see following instructions)

2 tablespoons white sugar

8 medium Fresno chilies, stemmed and quartered (see headnote)

3 medium garlic cloves

1/3 cup lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped

In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, and 1½ tablespoons salt. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside. Loosen the skin over the chicken breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between it and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tablespoons of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.

In a food processor, combine the reserved spice mixture with the sugar, chilies, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar; process until smooth, scraping the bowl once or twice. Measure out ¼ cup of the sauce, reserving the rest for later, and brush evenly over the chicken, including the bone side. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, prepare a grill for indirect, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, set half of the burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.

Set the chicken, skin side up, on the grill’s cooler side. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Using tongs, rotate the chicken 180 degrees to bring the far side of the chicken closest to the heat. Cover and cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees and the thighs reach 175 degrees, another 25 to 35 minutes.

Brush the chicken with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then use tongs to flip it skin side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer skin side up to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more. Serve with the sauce on the side.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Spatchcocking — also called butterflying — involves removing the backbone of a chicken to flatten it, allowing it to cook more quickly and evenly. To do it, set the chicken on a cutting board, breast side down. Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone from top to bottom. Repeat the cut on the other side of the backbone, then remove and discard the backbone (or save it for broth). Spread the sides of the chicken, opening it like a book and flattening it as much as possible. Flip the chicken breast side up, then use your hands to press firmly on the center to flatten the bird. The breast bone may crack.

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Piri Piri Chicken
Piri Piri ChickenConnie Miller of CB Creatives

Grilled Chicken With Soy Sauce Tare

Makes 4 servings

In Japanese cooking, tare (pronounced tah-reh) is a seasoning liquid made from high-impact ingredients to create deep, umami-rich flavor. The base might be miso, sesame paste, or even salt, but soy sauce (shoyu, in Japanese) is the most common. Among its many uses, tare can be added to broths, made into dipping sauces, or brushed on as a basting sauce for grilled foods. Here, we make a simple shoyu tare for seasoning grilled bone-in chicken thighs that have been slashed to allow the fat to render and the seasoning to soak in. The recipe makes about ¾ cup of tare but you will need only ½ cup for the chicken; the remainder will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Save the shiitakes after straining them out of the tare. The flavorful, savory-sweet mushrooms can be sliced and used in stir-fries, fried rice, or noodle dishes.

For the tare:

½ cup mirin

½ cup sake

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

¼ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup soy sauce

For the chicken:

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper

1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

4 scallions, thinly sliced

To make the tare, in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the mirin, sake, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and return to a simmer, then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl and press on the solids to extract any liquid; you should have about ¾ cup. Measure out ‚ cup of the tare for basting.

To cook the chicken, prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate; leave the primary burner on high and turn the remaining burner(s) to low.

While the grill heats, using a sharp knife, cut 2 parallel, evenly spaced slashes on each chicken thigh, slicing all the way to the bone. Season both sides of the thighs with salt and pepper. Place the chicken with the skin up on the grill’s cooler side. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Lightly brush the pieces with tare, then cover again and cook until the thickest part of the thighs not touching the bone reaches 175 degrees, about another 15 to 20 minutes, brushing every 4 to 5 minutes with more tare.

Flip the chicken skin down on the grill’s cooler side. Brush the bone side with the remaining tare

reserved for basting and cook until the skin side is lightly charred, about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken bone side down onto the grill’s hot side and cook until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Squeeze 2 of the lemon wedges over it, top with the scallions, and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the remaining tare. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve with remaining lemon wedges on the side.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.