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Barbecue Secrets

Recipes of the week: Chris Lilly's Airline Chicken Breast and Ronnie's Summer Potato Salad

Jul 25, 2013

Chris Lilly's Airline Chicken Breast with Basil Butter and Summer Potato Salad with Dill and Spring Onions

This recipe is from the award-winning cookbook, Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book. Award-winning author Chris Lilly was kind enough to share it with me as the Barbecue Secrets Podcast Recipe of the Week. (The podcast will be coming out tomorrow, Friday July 26, watch for it!) This is one of the most delicious chicken recipes, and with only five ingredients (plus a little smoke), it’s one of the simplest. It's written for a charcoal or wood-burning cooker, so I’ve adapted it slightly to include cooking on a gas grill.

Chris calls it airline chicken breast because it’s a skin-on breast with only the drumette of the wing attached. In his book he says, “back when commercial airlines still served real meals …. Leaving a portion of the wing attached to the small chicken breast made the serving look larger while still allowing it to fit nicely into an airline food tray.”

I think you’re going to find it will send your taste buds on a first-class flight! 

Serves 4

Cooking Method: Direct and Indirect Heat

Suggested Wood: Hickory, Pecan or Oak

Cooking time: 40 minutes

4 chicken breasts (skin-on breast with only the wing drumette attached)

Kosher salt

Black pepper


Basil Butter

12 Tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) butter

½ cup chopped fresh basil

With a sharp knife, remove the bones and cartilage form the underside of each chicken breast. The only bone left in the breasts should be the drumette bone. Season the chicken breasts lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

Prepare your grill for high indirect cooking. If it’s a charcoal grill, build a charcoal or wood fired on one side of the grill, leaving the other side void. If it’s a gas grill, preheat the grill on high and then turn half the burners off, so that one area of the cooker can be used for direct cooking and the other for indirect cooking. The heat inside the gas grill cooking chamber or above the hot coals should be very hot (approximately 450 – 500°F).

Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the basil and mix well. Please the chicken breasts directly over the coals or on the cooking grate that has the flame under it, and baste with half the basil butter. Grill the chicken for 5 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Transfer the chicken to a shallow baking pan, skin side up, and place it over the void/flameless side of the grill. Baste with the remaining basil butter. Cover the grill and cook with indirect heat (approximately 400°F) for an additional 35 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken breasts reaches 160°F. Slice the chicken breasts across the skin into small medallions to serve.

Summer Potato Salad with Dill and Spring Onions

This is a great dish to make when summer produce markets are at their peak, which is about now.

3 lbs small to medium-sized new potatoes (or Yukon Gold or red potatoes)

1/3 to 1/2 cup light olive oil

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

1 cup coarsely chopped spring onion bulbs, green stalks removed, or the same amount of a sweet white or purple onion

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Juice of half a lemon (or to your taste)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt or French sea salt (or to your taste)

Juice of half a lemon

Wash the potatoes and use a paring knife to trim off any black bits or blemishes. Place the potatoes in a big pot and fill with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then turn down to a simmer. Cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until they can be easily stabbed right through to the centre with a sharp knife. Be sure not to over-cook them! Remove the pot from the heat, drain the potatoes and then stop the cooking by re-filling the pot with cold water. Drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool.

When the potatoes are cooled, cut them into bite-sized chunks and place them in a salad bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and adjust the amounts of oil, salt and lemon juice to your taste. You want the salad to be nice and moist from the oil, and with enough salt to bring out all the fresh flavours of the potatoes, onion and dill.