Plank Grilling: Chicken on sticks with fava beans and leeks

This post kicks off a week of blog posts dedicated to plank grilling.  I’ve been interested in plank grilling for some time and thought it would be a good idea to practice a little as we begin the Spring/Summer grilling season.  There are so many techniques that make cooking interesting and varied foods easy and tasty.  There are two books I depended on a great deal for this series.  And I’d like to thank Ted Reader for his great book Napoleon’s Everyday Gourmet Plank Grilling and The Plank Grilling Cookbook: Infuse Food with More Flavor Using Wood Planks by Dina Gullen, Michelle Lowrey, Maria Everly and Gretchen Bernadorff.  As far as I’m concerned these are the best two plank grilling cookbooks on the market today.  If you’re at all interested in plank grilling you should pick these two books up.

Not only is this post the beginning of a series on plank grilling it’s also the May entry in the “On Our Grills: 4 Ingredient Challenge.”  This month the four ingredients we had to work with were chicken breast, wild rice, fava beans and any ingredient that start with the same letter as our first name.  For the mystery ingredient I chose Leeks.  I picked Leeks because I like leeks, but mostly because I couldn’t think of a way to incorporate licorice into this meal.

For many backyard grillers the thought of plank grilling conjures up salmon roasting away on a cedar plank.  But there are so many more options available.  One technique is to just use some dried sticks.

In this cook I used some dried grape vines to provide the smoke flavor.  Fruit tree trimmings or blackberry vines work great.  I recommend you know the source of your vines/twigs.  You want to make sure they have not received any chemical treatments.  You’ll be cooking directly on them so make sure they’re clean!

Start with vines and twigs about the same diameter of your little finger.  Make sure they are completely seasoned (dry) and soak them in water for at least an hour.  The soaking will keep them from immediately going up in flames and instead will slowly smolder and impart a little smoke flavor to your meat.  Place the twigs on your hot grill and heat them until they just start to smoke.  Reduce the heat.

Season  your meat and give it a light coat of olive oil.  Place the meat directly on top of the twigs.  Close the lid on your grill and wait.  If you’ve adjusted your heat correctly the wood will not burst into flames and the meat will cook without much work by you.

It takes some practice to get the technique down.  You’ve got to practice.  Practice and you’re ultimate success is much easier on a gas grill than it cooking direct over a charcoal fire.  If you put in the time and effort to practice and learn cooking with planks you’ll be able to come up with some great food that will surprise and amaze your family and friends.

The other part of the “On Our Grills: 4 Ingredient Challenge” was incorporating wild rice, fava beans and leeks.  The wild rice was easy.  Buy some wild rice and cook it per the instructions on the package.  Easy…

Fava Beans!

Did you know that Fava Beans are really beans?  They’re really a member of the pea family.  I’m not really sure why they’re called beans.  I mean when someone actually named them couldn’t they have just as simply been called Fava Peas.  Anyway, trying to figure this out could take forever.

To cook fava beans you need to first remove them from the pods, which is a bit of work.  Once you’ve got them out of the pods you have to blanch them.  Then you have to plunge them into cold water.  And finally you have to peel the thick skin that covers each “bean.”  It’s a long, time-consuming process.  But it was worth it.  These little green gems taste great.  I decided to cook the fava beans along with the leeks.  Unlike last month’s challenge where I failed to come up with an ingredient combination that worked, this time a succeeded.  The fava beans and leeks tasted great together.

Cut away the roots at the bottom of the leeks along with the long green leaves.  What you want to have left is the white and light green parts of the leeks.  Slice the leeks in half and brush them with olive oil.  Grill all sides of the leeks until you have nice grill marks and they start to curl a little.

Place the leeks on a sheet of foil and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar all over them.  Add your fava beans and wrap it all up tight in the foil.  Place the foil packet back on your grill and cook them at medium/high heat for about 20 minutes.  This process will cook the fava beans and gently braise the leeks.

After 20 minutes open the packet, season with a little salt and pepper to taste and serve!  You’re going to love the flavor.

This months cook was one of my favorite Challenge cooks.  Everything came out just as I thought it should.  Give both the plank cooking technique and the grilled/braised leeks.  You’ll be glad you did!

Additional participants in this month’s Ingredient Challenge include:

Paul Haight of No Excuses BBQ – ENTRY HERE

The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world. Somewhere along the way things got out of control…

Hanneke Eerden of The Dutchess Cooks – ENTRY HERE

After years of cooking, grilling, baking and reading other people’s blogs, I thought “why not start my own blog??” And I did, in 2010, but already after a short period of time, a blog wasn’t enough, and I started my own website. It’s not my goal to publish or come up with fancy and difficult recipes:  just good and delicious food with an international twist! Straight from my plate to yours!

Marc Van Der Wouw of Grill Adventures-ENTRY HERE

Grilladventures by broadcastmarc is started on march of 2010.I started the BBQ thing when I was 30,before that we eat a lot outside.have fun,but when the kids came in our life We start serious cooking.Most of it is realy healthy I think;-)The grill has a special place in my heart,We love to do things outside..Everything I make is an adventure,and sometimes we use the books.We try to grill as much as we can year round.

Chris of Nibble Me This – ENTRY HERE

The Nibble Me This website was created to share Chris’ misadventures in live fire cooking. ”I have no culinary training….I’m just entertaining myself with fire and food”.

Robyn Medlyn of Grillgrrrl – ENTRY HERE

Robyn Medlin is the “grill girl” behind grillgrrrl.com. Her focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. She encourages women to learn to grill as it a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen. This “grill girl” holds quarterly “Women’s Grilling Clinics” as a way to encourage women to not be intimated by the grill.

8 Comments on Plank Grilling: Chicken on sticks with fava beans and leeks

  1. Hi Larry, this is a great looking dish, I tried to make mine a few times and screwed up every time……The griilling on the wooden sticks is awesome…love it..great job;-)

  2. Love the plank idea Larry. That is super creative. Wow. And, grilled leeks. I will have to give that a try!

  3. Great!! Love that idea of the grape vines!

  4. Grilliant idea, Larry! I am so glad you posted about the sticks, I have a box of persimmon twigs that I have been hanging onto for 6th months and this is the perfect idea for them.

  5. Man, great creativity and use if ingredients Larry, sorry I missed out on this month.

  6. Great looking plate, and very interesting spin on the use of sticks for planks. I was sorely tempted to do a “sticks and stones” comment, but I didn’t see any sign of a chicken/fava bean/wild rice pizza being cooked. ;)

  7. Odin the Dog // May 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm //

    Looks great! What a neat idea.

  8. I love the idea of using small sticks as a “raft” of “plank” for meats. Have you tried this over open/indirect flame or charcoal? I imagine that the flavor would only be enhanced by a subtle burn of the sticks. Great blog Larry – always inspiring.

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