This is a wonderful method for whole grilled chicken. Spatchcocking the bird ensures a more even cook, while the pressure of the brick pins the skin against the heat source to create crisp, golden skin.
1 x 2–3 kg (about 4½–6½ lb) chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Set up a grill for two-zone cooking and heat to medium.
Rinse the chicken well under cold water, removing any giblets and trimming back any excess fat from around the cavity. Pat dry with paper towel.
Spatchcock the chicken (page 34) and place, skin side down, on a foil-lined tray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the underside and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Cajun seasoning and massage well. Flip the bird over and repeat with the remaining oil and seasoning, making sure you spread the oil into the crevices between the thighs and wings.
Place the chicken, skin side down, on the indirect heat side of the grill, and place a foil-covered brick on top. You may need to use one brick across the chicken breast and another across the thigh area.
Grill for 25–30 minutes, then turn the chicken over. Replace the bricks, using the opposite (clean) side of the foil to touch the cooked side. Grill for a further 30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 74°C (165°F).
Transfer to a board, cover loosely with foil and rest for 7–9 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.
Master the meat: You will need one or two bricks for this recipe. Make sure you wrap them in foil since they’ll be making direct contact with the bird.
Makes about 150 g (5½ oz)
Cajun seasoning is used in place of regular salt in many kitchens across Southern Louisiana. It’s the staple flavour of my Cajun brick yardbird (page 61) and a key ingredient of Rice and gravy (page 153).
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic granules
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Put all the ingredients in a jar, firmly screw on the lid and shake to combine. The seasoning will keep for months at a time, though the pepper and some other spices start to lose their freshness and brightness over time.
Pork crackling is perhaps one of life’s greatest pleasures. This method uses the moisture-extracting qualities of salt to achieve a supremely crisp crust.
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) light soy sauce
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) shaoxing rice wine
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4–6 cm (1½–2½ inch) piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons honey
3–4 star anise
1 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
1 kg (about 2 lb) piece of pork belly, skin on
185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) water
390 g (13¾ oz/1½ cups) kosher salt
Combine the soy sauce, shaoxing wine, garlic, ginger, honey, star anise, cloves and peppercorns in a shallow dish large enough to fit the pork belly.
Using paper towel, pat down the skin of the belly. It’s very important to keep the skin as dry as possible from this point on, making sure no moisture or liquid touches it. Carefully place the belly in the marinade, which should come up the sides of the meat, but not touch the skin. Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a roasting pan with foil to catch any drips. Place a roasting rack on top of the foil, and pour the water into the pan.
Remove the pork belly from the marinade. Scrape off any aromatics that have stuck to the meat and put them in the water (to create a fragrant steam). Place the belly on the rack, skin side up. If the belly is not even, use some scrunched up foil underneath the meat to level it.
Pour the salt onto the skin to form a thick layer. Spread the salt all the way to the edges, making sure the skin is not visible (use extra salt if needed); the salt will turn into a solid crust during cooking. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 240°C (460°F). Carefully lift off the solid salt crust and discard. Use a pastry brush to brush away any stray salt granules. Return the pork to the hotter oven for 35–45 minutes, to crisp the skin. If the skin hasn’t completely transformed to crackling, turn on the oven grill (broiler) and blast it for 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove and place on a board. Use a cleaver or roast slicer to cut into chunks. Serve immediately.
Know your cuts: Try to select the most even and straight piece of belly for this recipe; it makes a big difference to ensuring all the skin puffs into crackling.
Flank steak is perfect for this application it’s a flavoursome cut with a very pronounced grain that is sliced into thin strips to serve. These self-saucing tacos come courtesy of a deliciously runny egg yolk, which mingles with the hot sauce to coat the steak pieces. If you don’t want to make your own hot sauce, use any store-bought variety, such as Tabasco, Cholula or Louisiana.
1 x 1 kg (about 2 lb) flank steak
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil
6 flour tortillas
1 handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
Home-made hot sauce, to taste (ready-made or see page 202)
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
90 g (3¼ oz/¼ cup) honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season the steak generously with salt, then place in a dish or resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the steak, making sure it’s well coated, then cover the dish or seal the bag and place in the fridge for 2–4 hours.
Heat a grill to high. Remove the meat from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and cook the steak, turning every 4–5 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 54°C (130°F). Transfer to a board, cover with foil and set aside. While the steak rests, cook the eggs.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat. Once hot, crack the eggs into the pan, cooking two or three at a time so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Working quickly after each egg hits the hot oil, use a spatula to gently push the edges of the whites back towards the yolk, to keep their shape. Cook for 2–4 minutes, until the whites are fried and just set but the yolk is still runny (the runny yolk will act as a sauce). Transfer the fried eggs to a paper towel to absorb some of the oil.
Slice the steak against the grain into 1 cm (½ inch) thick strips. Place two or three meat strips on a tortilla, then top with a fried egg, a sprinkle of coriander, a few dashes of hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.
Home-made hot sauce
Makes about 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) thick sauce or 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) thin sauce
Making your own hot sauce is much easier than you may think, and the fiery liquid
will keep for months in the fridge. You can experiment with different flavours and levels of heat by using different types of chillies. For a sauce with a little less sting, omit the chilli seeds.
225 g (8 oz) chillies, stems removed
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 teaspoons kosher salt
185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) white vinegar
Put the chillies and garlic clove in a food processor and pulse a few times until combined, then stir in the salt.
Scrape the mash into a large sterilised jar and cover with muslin or cheesecloth (something to stop anything getting in, but allowing it to breathe). Leave at room temperature for 5–7 days, to give the flavours time to develop.
For a thick sauce, stir the vinegar into the chilli mash after fermentation and store in an airtight jar.
For a thinner, more traditional Louisiana-style sauce, pass the mash through a sieve, then add the vinegar to the remaining juice and transfer to a clean bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 6 months.