Am constantly trying to satisfy my endless craving for something just a little bit different. Today, I smoked a whole chicken. I think that checks the box. And, I must say, YUM!!!
Smoking a whole chicken? In your kitchen? On your stove top? Really?
I live in an apartment complex (at the moment) and the aroma of the smoked chicken (reminiscent of a wood burning oven) has wafted down the hallway and around the corner. Hopefully I have not offended any of my neighbors. No knocks on the door from unhappy (or hungry) neighbors thus far…
It may be preferable to smoke the chicken on a grill or in an outdoor smoker, but city dwellers don’t always have the luxury of outdoor space. For those of you with no outdoor cooking options, you can do this right in your kitchen. All you need are some wood chips — hickory, cherry, mesquite, pecan, etc. — I used a combination of hickory and cherry wood, which impart a subtle smoky flavor.
And, well, you need a chicken. I’ve been waiting patiently for spring chickens from my local farmer. Fresh, never frozen, pasture-raised chicken. It’s worth the wait. I salt-brined the chicken for 36 hours. From there, into my makeshift smoker as follows:
The wood chips are placed at the bottom of a pan or wok. Next, the chicken is placed on a wire rack or tray, and you tent the whole thing with foil to form a tight seal. This keeps all the moisture in, resulting in a super moist and juicy chicken. I smoked my 3-pound whole chicken for 30 minutes and then finished it in the oven to crisp up the skin. While this works quite nicely, I am eager to try this in an outdoor grill/smoker; just need a backyard or some outdoor space (will settle for a rooftop or balcony).
I like the subtle smokiness of the chicken and feel it adds a little something extra to the salad, but you could easily substitute with roast chicken; although, that little bit of smoky flavor is darn good.
You can enjoy this tasty bird on its own. It would also make a mean chicken salad or pulled bbq chicken sandwich. Last, but certainly not least, the smoked chicken would be a great addition to a soup (thinking smoked chicken tortilla soup) or stew. Sky’s the limit.
Today’s salad is ideal as a light and tasty lunch or dinner, and a great way to utilize all the wonderful spring produce — spring peas, pea shoots, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots…
I paired the salad with an Asian-style dressing. The dressing offers a nice balance of salty from the fish sauce, sweet from the piloncillo (unrefined sugar) or palm coconut sugar, sour/tart from the lime, and a little heat from the Thai chiles (you can seed the chiles to tame the heat), along with a good amount of ginger, garlic, and shallot.
When the thermometer reads 165 degrees (in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone) and the juices run clear, your chicken is done. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, I highly recommend getting one. It will most definitely save you a lot of heartache in the kitchen. Nothing fancy is necessary, an inexpensive $10 thermometer will do the job.
You’ll want to let the chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes or so before you dig in…
The salad ingredients…
These are just a few ingredients you can use in your salad. Change it up, adding whatever you like, whatever is readily available, and what’s in season (from top to bottom).
Spring peas — when they’re this fresh and tender, you can eat them in their entirety, the peas, the pods, the whole thing.
Pea shoots — the delicate and sweet leaves, tendrils, and buds/blossoms of the green pea plant are a great addition to a salad. You can see some of the pea pods still attached.
Cabbage — shredded green or purple (or a combination) is the basis for this salad.
Herbs — you can use any combination of herbs. I love Thai basil, but you could also use Italian basil, cilantro, and/or mint.
Cucumbers — love the small, crisp Persian cucumbers. Armenian and Suyo Long are also favorites.
Chiles — used Thai chiles in the dressing and some mild Fresno chiles in the salad.
Lime — adds a nice acidity to the dressing, balancing the saltiness from the fish sauce.
Sweetener — you’ll want to balance the fish sauce dressing with some type of sweetener, such as unrefined sugar cane, palm coconut sugar, or even honey. Below is an unrefined [Mexican] sugar called piloncillo, which I found at a local international market.
Garlic –along with ginger (minced/grated), it goes into the dressing.
Smoked Chicken Salad
Use the following as a guide, switching out the vegetables, based on your likes, what’s readily available, and what’s in season.
1 small head of cabbage, green and/or purple, shredded (a mandolin works particularly well))
Large handful of English peas in their pods, stems trimmed
Handful of pea tendrils, chopped
3-4 Fresnos or 1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 large or 4 small carrots, julienned
2 small cucumbers, sliced
1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs, such as Thai basil, basil, mint, and/or cilantro
Handful of chopped nuts and/or seeds, such as peanuts, almonds, Marcona almonds, and/or sesame seeds
One 3-pound whole chicken (directions for smoking below)
Dressing (recipe below)
1 (3-pound) whole chicken
2 tablespoons wood chips such as these
Salt brine the chicken: 24 to 36 hours in advance, salt the chicken all over (including the cavity) with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt for a 3-pound chicken (see note below). Should you choose, preseason the cavity and/or exterior of the chicken (with herbs and spices of your choosing) at this point as well; I rubbed the exterior of the chicken with hot smoked paprika. Loosely cover and refrigerator until you’re ready to roast. Bring to room temperature an hour before roasting. Lightly rub olive oil over the breast and legs.
To rig a stovetop smoker: Place the wood chips at the bottom of a large pan or wok (lined with foil). Place a steamer basket/rack/tray in the pan or wok. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the steamer basket/rack/tray. Tent the whole thing with foil to form a tight seal. Place on the stove top and smoke for 30 minutes over medium heat.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the chicken is done smoking, remove the foil and roast the chicken in the oven for about 15 to 18 minutes; place under the broiler for the last 2 to 3 minutes to crisp up the skin. When the thermometer reads 165 degrees (in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone) and the juices run clear, the chicken is done. Rest for 15 minutes. Shred the chicken.
Note: 1/2 to a scant 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken; the amount of salt depending on taste, how far ahead you pre-salt (the shorter the brining time, the less salt needed), and the size of the bird.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or mild olive oil)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons palm sugar (more or less to taste)
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
2-3 red Thai chiles, (seeded if you desire less heat) thinly sliced
3 teaspoons grated ginger
4 small cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, finely diced
Whisk all ingredients to combine.