Charlie’s domain: As best as I can remember, Charlie used to make this chicken a couple of times a summer. He would cut up a whole chicken (or two) and leave the skin on. Most of the time, Charlie would cook this chicken on a rusty old charcoal grill. One year he broke down and bought a gas model. Living in Florida at the time, it too was soon rusty. I don’t think there are many better barbeque smells than this chicken on the grill. Could be the garlic, but when this chicken is cooking we knew something tasty was coming. Charlie’s not around to cook this chicken anymore but every time I make this chicken I think of him. I picture him sitting in his folding lawn chair, tongs in one hand, cocktail in the other, chesterfield king masterfully balanced on his lower lip when he spoke.
Pass the tongs: I make this version with skinless chicken. Don’t get me wrong, I like chicken skin. When chicken skin is crispy, crunchy, salty, there is nothing better. Crispy chicken skin is like potato chips. It’s hard to eat just one (piece). When grilling skin on chicken, the fat under the skin starts to drip. This dripping fat catches fire and causes the skin to burn and separate from the meat. I would spend my time moving the chicken from side to side or taking it off the grill entirely while the flames died down. The result would be black on the outside, undercooked on the inside chicken. Boneless, skinless pieces cook more quickly and rarely catch fire. The thickness is more consistent and when the first piece is done the others aren’t far behind. I use organic boneless chicken thighs. I like the size, texture and flavor of thighs.
The line is cast: Charlie taught me how to fish. Or, better stated, Charlie took me fishing. Our first spin rigs were little level winds (reel type) with black fabric line. Charlie spent most of our early fishing years untangling or cutting out “bird’s nests”. Aptly named wads of fishing line created when the spool spins faster than the line exiting the reel. In this era, very few fish were caught, but we all were having a great time. This ritual continued until the Zebco reel was invented. Charlie sprang for a couple. The Zebco reel is a design where the line spool is contained under a shiny metal cylinder/cone virtually eliminating the dreaded “bird’s nest.” This advancement changed our fishing lives. We actually caught some fish. We caught blue gill in the ponds, mackerel off the jetties, even a bass or two.
The Quality Water: This is an appropriately named section of the San Juan River in NW New Mexico. Fly fishing only, highly managed, productive stretch of river. The Quality Water starts at the base of Navajo Dam and flows for miles through high NM desert. The San Juan River eventually makes its way into Lake Powell, part of the Colorado river system. The Quality Water stretch holds thousands of trout benefiting from consistent water temperatures and abundant bug life. When I lived in Durango, CO I had the good fortune of fishing this stretch of water dozens of times. Charlie had never been fly fishing. He took us spin and bait fishing so this was all new to him. It was my turn to return the favor. Charlie didn’t own waders and had never cast a line. It didn’t matter because this was Charlie’s day. He caught a dozen nice trout or so. He caught a few over 20”’s and one that spooled the Hardy Princess. He reeled the opposite way a few times and caught one sitting on a rock but all in all, couldn’t have been a better day. What did we cook for dinner to celebrate? Drunken Chicken!
- 4 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup Canola oil
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 15 cloves of peeled garlic
- Salt and pepper.
- 1 – 12 oz can of light beer
- 2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
In a blender put the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until mixture is a foamy white. Slowly add the beer until the whole can is added (if you put it in the beginning it will foam out of the blender.) Pour the mixture over the chicken thighs and add the chopped rosemary. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Marinate for at least 2 hours. Overnight is okay. Remove from refrigerator at least an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Grill on medium or medium high about 10 minutes a side or until chicken juices run clear. Serve hot or cold. I prefer cold side dishes with this chicken such as fresh summer salads, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
Tips: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can but substituted for chicken thighs. They tend to be drier so don’t overcook. As well, lemon juice can be used in place of vinegar but only use ¼ of a cup. Try extra virgin olive oil instead of canola for a nice twist.