I’m a big, big fan of pesto. It’s so simple yet so addictive. Pesto is basil, garlic, parmesian cheese, olive oil, and sometimes pine nuts (thanks for the commenter below on the distinction). You can make your own, or, if you have as little time as I do, buy it premade. I’ve used pesto before on the grill with lamb that it pairs so well with. And while I was longing for the lamb, I’m also paying some pretty hefty medical bills for the birth of my second son and couldn’t afford the pricy lamb. But I still had the craving for the pesto so I decided to try it on chicken. And, if any more medical bills role in, I might have to change the name of the site to BrokeAssGrillinFools.com…
First, I brined chicken thighs. I brine, and so should you, for three very specific reasons:
- The salt in the brine forces water from the brine into the meat so the meat is juicier
- The salt in the brine begins to break down the connective tissues so the meat is more tender
- And when adding flavorizers to the brine, the liquid that goes from the brine into the meat, makes the meat more flavorful.
Juicier, more tender, and tastier – I’d say those are pretty good reasons to brine, eh? And since it takes the same amount of time to brine as it does to marinade, I can’t see why you wouldn’t brine every time.
The basic premise for the brine is one cup of salt per gallon of fluid. My standard brine is apple cider, salt, garlic and black pepper. For this I put 1/4 cup of salt into a ziplock:
Then two cups of apple cider:
Then mix the solution up to get the salt to dissolve. After that, add three cloves of minced garlic, 10 turns of black pepper and the chicken thighs. I brined the chicken for about five hours, although I normally go overnight.
After sparking up the chimney, I removed the meat from the brine, and rinsed the liquid off. Rinsing the brine off is very important, otherwise the meat can be too salty.
I put the meat skin side down and spread the pesto over the bottom of the chicken. The rest will go on when I get the chicken on the grill:
The reason I waited to put the rest of the pesto on, is that if I flip these thighs over and put pesto on the other side, most of the pesto here will stick to the cutting board. So put them on the grill, skin side up, and slather the other side:
The chicken in the back is some Apple Pumpkin Chicken that I will post shortly. They were inspired by my Apple Pumpkin Ribs.
Here you can see the chicken on one side and the coals on the other side along with a couple chunks of apple wood:
30 minutes in at 250 degrees:
The pesto is browning up and losing a lot of the oil which is basting the meat, so I slathered some more on:
After 60 minutes at 250 they weren’t done yet, but I had hungry people so I had to speed up the process. Rather than let them smoke for another 30-45 minutes, I stoked up my dying fire:
And put the chicken right over the heat to finish them off:
After I seared the chicken on each side I pulled it off to the side and got the corn ready. This is a modified version of the naked corn I did in this post. Rather than cook it in the husk, like I’ve done for years, I shucked the corn and made up a compound butter of salted butter, garlic, tarragon, and oregano that I brush onto the corn repeatedly as I grill it over direct heat:
That’s what I did for four of the ears, but the fifth, I slathered in pesto:
I wasn’t sure that the basil pesto would be any good on the corn, so I didn’t want to inflict it on my family if it wasn’t.
Naked corn requires constant attention as the butter or the oil from the pesto will cause flare ups. Don’t stress out about the flames. Let them go for a little bit. The charring from the flames adds a sweetness you can’t get if the corn is in the husk:
Here’s the pesto chicken, along with the apple pumpkin chicken, and some of the corn:
The pesto chicken was outstanding as was the corn. I will definitely do this again when I’m jonesing for some pesto and can’t afford the lamb. This is an excellent substitute. I may need to try it with some pork chops.
If you have any questions about the pesto chicken and corn, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
If you are interested in other poultry dishes, click here.