Relish grilled meats with smoked tomato chutney

A liberal dash of seasoning keeps grilled foods interesting, or so runs the premise of this week’s story in A la Carte.

Despite being a lover of spices, tongue-tingling ones in particular, I’m guilty of devising flavors that are too simple, too predictable. I figure that if the meat is of high enough quality, a little salt and pepper suffices for grilling. I want to taste the meat.

My husband, Will, isn’t so appreciative of my plain-Jane attitude, although he recognizes its utility for feeding small children. So while I keep the meat’s spice to a minimum, I’m always looking to enhance its flavors with some kind of sauce served for him on the side.

Last summer saw me attempting to replicate our favorite smoked tomato chutney, a novelty when I first encountered it two decades ago at Ashland’s Morning Glory. I’ve relished it so many times with the restaurant’s signature rock-shrimp cakes that I was fairly confident my rendition would come close to the original.

Amid its straightforward combination of tomatoes, onions, vinegar, sugar and salt, this chutney contains a sprinkle of dried currants, plumped in its liquid. Will’s verdict: He would be hard-pressed to distinguish mine from Morning Glory’s.

Maybe the restaurant’s chef-owner, who smokes a number of meats on site, was inspired by a collection of recipes from Weber grills. Or maybe it’s just coincidence. But the following recipe, created by Weber and courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, is a dead ringer for my version of smoked tomato chutney. With tomato season on the horizon, consider grilling or smoking garden tomatoes instead of using canned.

A chili pepper-paprika rub kicks up the spice in this chicken dish, but it certainly could be omitted.

Tribune News Service photo

Ancho Chili Chicken Thighs With Tomato Chutney

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup minced red onion

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup dried currants or raisins

2 teaspoons ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs (with bone and skin), 5 to 6 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat and skin

In a small saucepan combine the tomatoes, onion, sugar, vinegars, crushed red pepper and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated and mixture is thick and syrupy, for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the currants, and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, paprika, black pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Season the chicken thighs evenly with rub. Brush cooking grates clean. Grill chicken, skin-side down first, over direct medium heat, until golden-brown, for 6 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Move chicken over indirect heat and cook until juices run clear and meat is no longer pink at bone, for about 30 minutes. Keep grill lid closed as much as possible during cooking.

Remove chicken from grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving. Serve chicken warm with chutney.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe from “Weber’s Greatest Hits” by Jamie Purviance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.99).

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