Cheese, crackers, and apple still lifeYesterday, the weather was humid and hot, but the rain held, and my husband, Clif, and I were able to spend the afternoon in one of our favorite places—on the patio in our backyard. Our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike, joined us as well as our friend Claire, who just happens to be Mike’s aunt.

We decided to try cooking two small whole chickens on the grill, with indirect heat, and the results were mixed. We used a big roasting pan, and one chicken was set flat in the pan. The other chicken was propped upright on a little wire rack Clif bought at Home Depot, a rack that has space for an open can of beer onto which the chicken is placed. Supposedly, this makes the chicken moister, but unfortunately, the chicken set directly in the pan took longer to cook than the chicken on the rack. We probably should have taken the chicken off the rack as soon as it was done, but we didn’t, and it was disappointingly dry. On the other hand, the chicken cooked flat was quite good.

Chicken on the grill

For both chickens, I had made a butter, garlic, sage mixture to rub under the skin—one stick of softened butter, four cloves of chopped garlic, and fifteen sage leaves, also chopped. This gave the meat a very good flavor, and I will definitely use this mixture again, for both cooking on the grill and cooking in the oven.

I will say that both chickens were brown and beautiful, but to paraphrase Dr. Who, good looks are no substitution for good taste.Browned chicken

Clif and I have decided we will try the rack and beer method again, but we will only cook one chicken and remove it as soon as it is done according to a meat thermometer. If at first you don’t succeed…

Despite the dry chicken, it was a lovely day on the patio. Courtesy of Claire and Shannon, we hand bang-up appetizers—a tangy Irish cheddar cheese with crackers; prosciutto and basil on slices from a very fresh baguette, and homemade tortilla chips from Whole Foods. Along with some salsa, of course.

Courtesy of farmer Kev, I served corn on the cob, green beans with browned butter, and red roasted potatoes with olive oil and rosemary.

Talking about books, movies, and family, we stayed on that patio until about 7:00. As evening came, the air cooled nicely, and Clif and I could hardly bear to go inside to clean up after our guests left. Surrounded by the forest, we listened as birds called to each other, the voices of woodpeckers, chickadees, and finches coming together in conversation.

Claire and Mike
Claire and Mike



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