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I’m not much on reality TV or contest shows, but I’m a fan of cooking and English guys yelling at people, heavy lidded guys not suffering fools, and uber talented and creative chefs with funky glasses. So truth be told, I’ve seen an episode or two of Master Chef. With my schedule that’s saying a lot as I don’t watch much in terms of TV other than football and Cardinals baseball. So I was giddy to have the opportunity to interview Graham Elliot about some of the many, many things he’s working on.

Most of you know him as the rather large and now rather svelte host of Master Chef with the, tats, truly unique style and the funky glasses. This former Navy brat is also the owner of two Chicago area restaurants, finishing up a cookbook due out this fall, a three time James Beard nominee, host of a number of Master Chef shows and now the host of Craziest Restaurants in America. Oh and he is also a marathon runner.  The man’s plate is full and his cup runneth over!

He happens to be doing some recipe development for Mike’s Hard Lemonade right now as well. One of which is a watermelon-olive salsa. Yeah, I had the same reaction when I read that too. He explains why it actually works in the interview below where we talk about: his former cohost, Joe; Chef Graham as a child; entertaining in Chicago; and of course backyard grilling tips. You can find that recipe for the watermelon-olive salsa below the interview.

If you like this interview and want to hear some of the other foodie folks I’ve interviewed, click that link and you can see and hear my interviews of Wolfgang Puck, Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone/Moe Cason (that was a two-fer interview), or Brigitte Nguyen or Dr. BBQ Ray Lampe.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this interview, any recipe on the site or just grilling/BBQ in general, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

And here’s that recipe for the Watermelon-Olive Salsa:

Grilled Chicken with Watermelon-Olive Salsa – paired with Mike’s Hard Apple Ale

Reinvention of: Plain Grilled Chicken Breast

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 chickens, each weighing 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon espelette , cayenne, or hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground sumac, optional, see Note
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 cups plain yogurt
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Watermelon salsa
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablepoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons ground sumac, optional
3 cups diced watermelon
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, diced
½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (and seeded if you like less heat)
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt

Directions:

Trim any excess skin from the chickens around the necks and cavity. Using poultry shears, carefully remove the backbones. Season the chickens on both sides with salt and pepper.

Put the espelette, sumac, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and poppy seeds in a blender or spice grinder and process to a powder. Add the yogurt, garlic, honey, red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and lemon zest and blend until well mixed.

Lay the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to hold them in a single layer, or put them in a large sealable plastic bag. Cover them with the yogurt marinade, turning them to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling so that the heat is medium-high.

Lift the chickens from the marinade and let the excess drip back into the dish or plastic bag. Scrape off any that does not drip off. Lay the chickens on the grill, skin side up, spread out so that they are as flat as possible. Cover the grill and brush the chickens with the marinade every 10 minutes or so. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when the dark meat is pierced in a thick place and the internal temperature of the white meat is 165ºF.

Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, honey and sumac.

Add the watermelon, cucumber, olives, jalapeno, parsley, cilantro, and mint. Toss gently to coat with the dressing. Season with the lime juice and zest and then adjust the seasoning with salt. Serve with the chicken.

Grilled Chicken with Watermelon-Olive Salsa
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: BBQ
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
This dish is perfect to serve to company. Mike's Hard Apple Ale brings out the smoky char of the grilled chicken and complements both the bright pop of the watermelon and saltiness of the salsa. The result? Summertime magic
Ingredients
  • 2 chickens, each weighing 2½ to 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon espelette , cayenne, or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac, optional, see Note
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Watermelon salsa
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac, optional
  • 3 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • ½ cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (and seeded if you like less heat)
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Trim any excess skin from the chickens around the necks and cavity. Using poultry shears, carefully remove the backbones. Season the chickens on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the espelette, sumac, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and poppy seeds in a blender or spice grinder and process to a powder. Add the yogurt, garlic, honey, red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley, and lemon zest and blend until well mixed.
  3. Lay the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to hold them in a single layer, or put them in a large sealable plastic bag. Cover them with the yogurt marinade, turning them to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
  4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling so that the heat is medium-high.
  5. Lift the chickens from the marinade and let the excess drip back into the dish or plastic bag. Scrape off any that does not drip off. Lay the chickens on the grill, skin side up, spread out so that they are as flat as possible. Cover the grill and brush the chickens with the marinade every 10 minutes or so. Cook for about 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when the dark meat is pierced in a thick place and the internal temperature of the white meat is 165ºF.
  6. Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil, honey and sumac.
  7. Add the watermelon, cucumber, olives, jalapeno, parsley, cilantro, and mint. Toss gently to coat with the dressing. Season with the lime juice and zest and then adjust the seasoning with salt. Serve with the chicken.
 

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Seems I'm on a chicken wing kick (see my last post) and love this pic. Looks like a Christ… https://t.co/zPqEzVrRVX https://t.co/ecvv1iThkU - 13 hours ago
Scott Thomas

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