A few weekends ago I put the lil’ Weber grill back in action and experimented with a new grilling method: smoking with wood chips. Last year I pretty much focused on charcoal direct grilling without using the cover. If the heat is high enough, and the grill properly oiled, most everything ends up tasting good. I was a little more skeptical about introducing a smokey flavor to the food, but I had a relatively inexpensive meat on hand (chicken thighs) and some very fresh looking bok choy to test out.
After considering cherry or mesquite wood chips at the store, my eyes landed on the single remaining bag of pecan wood chips. I imagined the flavor to be somewhat sweet and nutty, without that overpowering ‘mesquite bbq’ flavor. The wood chips are soaked in water for 30 minutes, then placed in a foil pouch (I used about 1/2 cup wood chips which expanded in size). I use a charcoal chimney starter to get the coals burning, and then place the foil pouch next to the hot coals.
Obviously smoking involves putting on the cover, which takes a bit more time to cook. But the results were amazing. With only kosher salt and pepper as the seasoning, the natural flavor of the pecan smoke infused the chicken and created a tandoori-like taste. I swear, I will never marinate in yogurt and spices for 24 hours again (which always just scorches over high heat anyway). The chicken was not at all scorched, but had a nice crispy texture and pinkish hue. I made a Coconut Scallion salsa from Planet Barbecue, which brought in the spicy and lemony tastes to balance out the sweet smoke.
So I’m committing this one to writing, with plans to make this again soon!
Grilled Pecan Chicken and Bok Choy with Coconut-Scallion Salsa
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup pecan wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
kosher salt & pepper
2 large bok choy, cut lengthwise and brushed with peanut oil
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 green onions
serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
tortillas, warmed on a cast iron, for serving
1. Preheat lump charcoal and place on bottom of grill. Place soaked wood chips in a foil pouch, and lay on top or just next to the hot coals. Cover the grill and let the wood chips begin to smoke.
2. Season the chicken thighs with salt & pepper. Brush the grill with vegetable oil, and make sure it’s super hot (test by putting your hand about 3 inches above the grate… if you can only stand it for 1-2 seconds, it’s ready). Place chicken thighs on the grill, but away from the direct flame. Cover the grill and close the vents to lower the heat.
3. After 10 minutes, check the chicken for grill lines and turn. Add bok choy and green onions to the grill, also away from the direct flame.
4. In a bowl, mix the coconut, serrano paper, and lemon juice. After the green onions have browned, chop and add to the bowl.
5. The chicken may take a few more turns, but it will be done when it feels firm to the touch and has crispy skin. I think I cooked mine for 25 minutes total, but this is not an exact science. It’s best to stay near the grill, with a glass of wine in hand, to ensure even cooking.
6. The bok choy will be done when it starts to tenderize around the thick white part. Serve everything together with the salsa and warm tortillas.