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One cooking technique I’ve really fallen hard for these days is using jams (including spreads and chutneys) and cooking them, so that they caramelize and bubble up. I did it with last month’s Ginger Jam, and I’m doing it here, again, with Mango Chutney. What I love about these ingredients is they add the requisite sweetness and stickiness, but they also come, as free-standing jarred products, pretty well balanced in terms of sweetness and acidity. So they add this phenomenal tang, and deep flavor, while providing the perfect already-sweet vehicle for caramelization.
Because the summer is all about grilling, I decided to grill my chutney. I made a spice rub of chili powder, smoky cumin, cinnamon, and salt, and let a few whole chicken legs sit and absorb all of those flavors. Slightly hot, slightly smoky, slightly exotic and almost sweet from the cinnamon. I grilled the chicken until the spicy skin was charred, and then I painted the skin with mango chutney. Another couple of minutes on the hottest part of the grill, and the chutney had melded together inseparably from the skin, bubbled up and caramelized almost like a barbecue sauce, and added all that sweetness and tartness to contrast with and balance the hot, salty skin. It’s so unusual, it just works.
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 4 chicken legs (organic/free range if you can swing it)
- 1/2 cup good mango chutney
- Torn cilantro for garnish
In a large plastic food storage bag, mix together the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Place the chicken legs in the bag, seal, and toss until the chicken is coated in the spice rub. Put the chicken in the fridge to absorb all those flavors for about 2 hours.
Take the chicken out of the fridge to take the chill off. Light your grill—wood burning, charcoal, or gas. Place the chicken on the grill, slightly away from the hottest part. Cook the chicken about 8 to 10 minutes on each side until cooked through. Then, brush both sides of the chicken with mango chutney, and sear an additional 1 minute per side on the hottest part of the grill. Arrange the chicken legs on a platter, and top with torn cilantro. Serve.
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