06 March 2011

60th celebrations: Char-grilled chicken with corn salad and buttermilk dressing

In between my beloved and I searching for our first house and going through the marathon of getting finance - whoever said buying a house is one of the major stresses in life was spot on, dealing with bankers, brokers, lawyers and real estate agents all at once is not my idea of fun - we managed to hold a 60th celebration for my father.

It was a great evening with family and a few dear family friends. My dad hates fuss, especially when it comes to himself and his birthday. So my sister and I tried to make the evening as fuss free and relaxed as possible.

We started with simple canapes, sparkling wine for the girls and beer for the boys.

Watermelon and feta squares
Homemade walnut crisps with goat's cheese and pear
Artichoke tartlets
Main meal was simply char-grilled chicken - that my beloved kindly cooked on the barbecue for me - and the loveliest salad with char-grilled corn and a winning buttermilk dressing.

Char-grilled chicken
from Gourmet Traveller's Annual Cookbook
I used two whole chickens for 10 people

Char-grilled chicken marinated in lemon, cayenne
pepper, thyme, garlic and white peppercorns
1 chicken (about 1.8kg)
2 tbsp thyme
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed

You need to spatchcock the chicken. To do this cut down each side of the chicken's backbone with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (discard bone of reserve for stock). Turn chicken over and press firmly on the breastbone to open out and flatten. I have actually found it helpful to slightly cut the bone on the non-skin side to help you flatten the bird. It is really important to do this so you can cook the meat more evenly on the barbecue. Score the thickest part of the breasts and thighs.

You can process the marinade in a food processor, however, I find pounding it in a mortar and pestle not only helps me relieve the tension built up from frustrating real estate agents, but it also produces a far richer flavour. Place thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, lemon rind in your mortar and pestle and pound to your heart is content…or until you have a coarse paste. Place peppercorns in a spice grinder and grind. Add the white pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to your paste, mix together.

Pour marinade over chicken, rub into every little crevasse as the lemon will start the cooking process and make your meat lovely and tender. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

When ready to cook, drain the chicken and char-grill, turning frequently and basting with the marinade until golden and cooked through. Add the spring onions to the hot plate at the end and char-grill for about 2 to 3 minutes until wilted. The spring onions are a fantastic edition to any barbecue.

The char-grilled chicken with spring
onions on top
Corn salad with buttermilk dressing
I doubled this recipe for 10 people

Corn salad with buttermilk dressing
3 corn cobs
olive oil
1 baby cos
1 cup mint, roughly chopped
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and blanched
1 punnet cherry tomatoes

Buttermilk dressing
100 ml buttermilk
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp mayonnaise
50 ml lemon juice
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 small garlic clove, crushed

Get your barbecue on so you can cook the corn and allow it to cool before you do anything else.

Once corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob and please in a bowl. Separate and coarsely tear cos leaves, add to corn along with cherry tomatoes, asparagus and mint.

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl until smooth, season to taste, refrigerate until required. Just before serving the meal, drizzle a little of the dressing over the salad, tossing to combine. Leave the rest in a dish for people to add more if they like.

The best part...we even got leftovers the next day.

Char-grilled chicken and salad leftovers