If you're like most Americans, the first thing you did when you brought home your new grill was remove the warming rack that sits above the grates. Today, I want to make a case for putting it back.
I'm a big believer in cooking entire meals on the grill. After all, if you've already got it fired up for the main course, why dirty pans or heat up the kitchen for the side? And that's where your warming rack comes in. The warming rack really is just a second grill grate that is especially suited to cooking vegetables at the same time as you are grilling a chicken, roast or even ribs!
Why? The warming rack is raised well above the direct heat of the grill, so whatever you put on it cooks more slowly than what is on the grates below. This is perfect for pairing large cuts of meat with vegetables that also are best cooked slowly over low heat, things like potatoes and other root vegetables, as well as corn on the cob. More delicate choices, such as asparagus, scallions and mushrooms, should be done more quickly and over direct heat on the bottom grate.
In the winter, I love to roast chicken on the grill. And this rosemary chicken is one of my favourites. The outside of the chicken is rubbed with rosemary, salt and pepper. The inside is stuffed with pearl onions and lemons. It's an amazing combination. And you finish the dish by squeezing the roasted lemons over the roasted chicken. The hot chicken absorbs the lemon juice and the result is a roasted chicken that will wake up your taste buds. It is both fresh and tangy and roasted comfort.
For a side, I go for with salt and rosemary-rubbed small red potatoes. They cook slowly on the warming rack during the final half of the chicken cooking time. You'll know that they are done when the skin is puffed-out and looks dry. At this point, they should be very soft at the centre. They are the smoothest, silkiest potatoes I have ever had. They don't even need any butter.
These potatoes also make a good mash. If you prefer a mash, toss them into a bowl when they are steaming hot and mash them, skins and all. All of the seasoning is on the skin, after all. Add olive oil to taste and you will have a delicious mash without the butter and cream. You might even discover that you prefer potatoes this way!
GRILLED ROSEMARY CHICKEN AND RED POTATOES
Rosemary is a comforting herb that is a safe bet for almost everyone. This recipe also works well with pork and beef, but chicken is my favourite. Add a simple salad and a light red wine and this may become your favourite Sunday supper.
Start to finish: 1 hour 40 minutes (15 minutes active)
Servings: 6 servings
For the chicken:
1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 lemons, halved
6 to 8 ounces pearl onions, peeled (more or less according to the size of the chicken)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the potatoes:
2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Prepare a grill for medium heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill and cooking on the other side. For a gas grill, this means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side, then cooking on that side.
Remove and discard the neck, giblets and any excess fat from the chicken. In a small bowl, combine the salt, rosemary and pepper to make a rub. Use 1/3 of the mixture to season the inside cavity of the chicken. Place the lemons and onions inside the chicken. Brush the olive oil all over the outside of the chicken, then sprinkle with the remaining rosemary rub.
Place the chicken, breast side up, directly on the cooking grates, or in a V-rack set inside a medium-sized disposable roasting pan, on the cooler side of the grill. Grill until the juices run clear and a thermometer reads 165 F in the breast and 180 F in the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
About 40 minutes before the chicken is done, make the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a metal bowl. Pour the oil over the potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt and toss again to coat evenly.
Place the potatoes on the grills warming rack, or in the centre of the cooking grate around the chicken. Roast the potatoes for 35 to 45 minutes — depending on the size of the potatoes — or until tender. The potatoes are done when the skin puffs slightly and the potatoes are very soft at the centre.
When the chicken is done, remove it from grill and set on a serving platter. Use tongs to remove the lemons from the chicken, then squeeze the hot lemon juice over the chicken. Spoon out the onions. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then carve and serve with the onions and potatoes.
Nutrition information per serving: 720 calories; 390 calories from fat (54 per cent of total calories); 43 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 170 mg cholesterol; 36 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 46 g protein; 820 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."