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RBR Tailgating: Mediterranean Inspired Chicken Thighs

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A quick and easy grilling recipe for our second FSU in as many weeks.

I’ve not been shy about my thoughts on playing decidedly lesser opponents. On these electronic pages I’ve pointed out that not overlooking an opponent, while very sportsmanlike to say and a right fine posture to be observed taking, is nonsense. If you’ve read what OWB has written about our upcoming opponents, you probably share my sense of ennui.

We are going to kill these guys. The only way we don’t cover is if we get up a comfortable thirty or so points and then treat this game as a passing practice and abandon the run completely. Even in that scenario the only way we don’t cover is if our passing game needs more kinks worked out than even Danny Kannell imagined.

I considered writing about Sunday brunch, something I did years ago to metaphorically (it was actually pretty overt) signal my complete and total willingness to look past a particularly hapless opponent and not participate the falsehood of taking every supposed scheduled threat seriously. The problem is that I like Fresno State. They’ve done so much for us. Unlike other guaranteed wins, I have to grant them a pre-game meal.

This west coast iteration of FSU has nurtured offensive minds that were critical in securing three of the four national championships the Tide has won in the Saban era. The pistol looks and play action heavy plays set forth by Jim McElwain were not the same as those proffered by the jet sweep, bubble screen, constraint pay loving Lane Kiffin, but both men spent time in Fresno. Lane was a backup qb and later a graduate assistant there and McElwain spent one glorious year under the “anyone, anywhere” tutelage of Pat Hill. Texas, LSU, and Clempson all fell to the sons of Fresno.

Oddly enough, in addition to working with the Fresno football program and winning national championships at Alabama, both Mac and Lane were fired by Al Davis after short stints at the Raiders. It’s a small world.

From what I’ve read, Fresno student athletes were mistreated in the last few years. The new coaching staff is apparently less involved with breaking bad habits installed by the previous regime as trying to install habits at all. It’s not a pretty picture. I don’t say this with insult in mind. It really sounds like the Bulldog players were failed by their previous coaching staff, and as I said, I like Fresno State. But let’s not kid ourselves, if they make a great leap forward, it will not be on Shaun Dion Hamilton’s watch.

So it looks like there will be basics all around. Alabama will be (hopefully) working on pass blocking and intermediate routes. Fresno will be learning to properly tackle and block. And we, the hungry tailgating masses, at least those that follow my lede (and lead) will be grilling chicken.

Steak is amazing on the grill, but it’s arguably as good when cooked on an iron skillet or when broiled or cooked at 900˚F in one of those insane steakhouse ovens. I’d initially say that burgers are better when grilled but if I’m honest with myself, the best burgers I’ve had were cooked on a restaurant griddle. Fish is all over the place, but I’m trying to think of a non rainbow trout species that I’d prefer on the grill as opposed to another cooking method. Hot dogs, obviously reign when cooked over a direct flame, but other than that, I can’t think of any common tailgate fare that more benefits from a smoky grill than chicken.

So this week’s offering is a simple grilled chicken thigh with Mediterranean (I have never spelled that word right on the first go round) inspired flavors.

Ricotta and Pancetta Stuffed Chicken

- 4 chicken thighs

- 2 oz. diced pancetta

- 4 oz. ricotta cheese

- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

- 1 vine ripe or Roma tomato

- ½ yellow onion

- 12 or so stalks of asparagus

- salt and pepper to taste

Add the pancetta to a sauté pan and cook over medium heat until a few pieces start to crisp. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel covered plate.

I made twice the proscribed amount in the above picture, so if yours looks a little smaller, don’t feel inadequate.

Mix the pork with your ricotta, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. I left this alone because I wanted a basic simple recipe, but if you wanted to add lemon juice or minced garlic at this point you wouldn’t be going off the rails.

Gently separate the skin from the flesh,

and add the cheese pork mixture, as much as the skin to flesh gap will allow.

I’m presenting this as a recipe with complementary flavor combinations. This is indeed that, but if the casual reader leaves with any one piece of enlightenment, I’d like it to be this. Set your burning coals to one side, open up the bottom baffles, place your chicken opposite the coals, and open the cover vents above the chicken. Cover and go away. Don’t turn over or otherwise disturb the bird. Just let physics draw smoke and heat over and through the thighs for forty five minutes or so. You’ll end up with the most extraordinary bird.

When the bird is ten or so minutes from being done, slice and alternately layer onion and tomato with the thyme in an aluminum foil pouch and add to the grill.

With five minutes left, add some baby asparagus to the grill.

Easy and flavorful.

I typically end these with “Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide!” but today I’m going to amend it a little bit.

“Enjoy, no injuries - I’m looking at you linebackers - and Roll Tide!”