Whole Chicken on the Barbecue

One of my favorite things to do on a hot summer night is walk the perimeter of our property, along the orchard easement road next to the tall cool grass that grows along the fence. The faint smell of the fruit trees in the neighboring orchard floats by and usually our farm animals, suddenly interested to see if they are getting fed, amble towards me curious, following along on their side of the fence. When I walk past the corral and their feeding station, they lose interest, turning their attention back to the grass they were eating.

The wind rustles the Poplar trees and brings the shouts and laughter from my kids jumping on the trampoline. They are wild and loud and burning off what feels like a never-ending well of energy and endurance.

As I loop the pasture and head back towards the house, I turn west and look at Mt. Adams peeking out from behind the rolling desert hills. The sky tonight is streaked with pink and orange, lighting up the sky and casting its warm glow on everything I see.

I’ve called Yakima home for 13 years now. When I moved here in my early twenties, I had no idea this place would capture my attention the way it has. It is more than the town I live in or where my children were born or where we work. These desert hills, the pink sky, that glorious mountain has become the backdrop to my creative endeavors. This Valley inspires the flavors in my kitchen, the words that tumble out onto the screen, my steps planted firmly in the dirt.

This recipe for a whole roasted chicken, barbecued to a crispy golden brown, served hot off the grill, directly to hungry bellies waiting patiently at the patio table is my ode to summer nights. The recipe itself is simple, adapted from a wonderful cookbook called What’s Gaby Cooking. It’s the kind of easy summer dinner that you go to again and again. I recommend an ice cold hoppy Yakima Valley beer or a lovely glass of Yakima Valley rose (might I recommend Gilbert Cellars, it’s one of my favorites) to enjoy while you supervise the grill.

Here’s the only tip I have to offer for the actual barbecuing: low and slow is your friend. This recipe works particularly well if you have a charcoal barbecue or a Traegar grill. It’s certainly not impossible on a gas grill, but you’ll need to make sure the heat doesn’t go to high. You want to shoot for around 350 degrees.

A big salad with corn fresh off the cob, crunchy bell peppers and lots of fresh herbs to go with the chicken make for an excellent and easy dinner. A ripe cantaloupe and a pint of raspberries picked up at your local fruit stand finishes the meal.

For the BBQ Chicken

• 1 ½ tablespoons paprika

• 1 ½ tablespoons garlic powder

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 teaspoon black pepper

• 2 whole chickens, giblets removed

• Cooking spray or vegetable oil for the grill

For the BBQ Chicken Baste

• 6 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon dried parsley

• Juice of 1 lemon

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Put chickens on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry. Sprinkle the rub over the chickens, massaging the spices into the skin on both sides of the bird. Allow the birds to rest on the counter while the grill heats.

Preheat your grill to about 350 degrees or a medium-low heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Place chickens directly on the grill over indirect heat, breast side up to start. Cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken over, and using a basting brush, liberally coat the chicken with butter mixture.

Cook for 15 more minutes with the grill covered. Flip the chicken again, baste again and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook, flipping the birds and basting the meat with butter mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes cooking time OR a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, reads 165 degrees.

To serve, transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve immediately. For an extra burst of flavor, serve with lemon wedges. Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken.

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