Memorial Weekend Chicken Cook-Off, With Barley Salad and Corn

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Partly inspired by the June issue of Bon Appétit, and partly by a friend's love of wings, this get-together featured five types of chicken wings/drumsticks, aromatic corn, a fancy barley salad and a refreshing agua fresca. 

If you read this blog regularly, you might have picked up on the fact that we like parties that revolve around food, something we can make into an annual tradition, like our pork feast or pumpkin carving. I have a feeling Memorial Weekend Chicken Grilling is here to stay. 

Our friends brought over marinated chicken wings and drumsticks, we had a total of five recipes -- teriyaki, honey-mustard, Korean, one with soy sauce and ginger, and one with salad dressing and hot sauce. I was ready to declare my Korean chicken a winner, but, after consuming A LOT of chicken, I realized this cook-off was not so black and white. Every recipe was good, even the weird salad dressing one that I had pre-judged. Will I ever learn?

Along with consuming many pounds of chicken, we also managed to eat a delicious barley salad (recipe below). This might be the best grain salad I've ever had. The recipe needs no tweaking. It's pretty easy to make, as long as you plan ahead of time, and juice your citrus for the dressing, which by the way, was totally refreshing, lightening up this salad and giving it a summery flavor.

Lastly, let me mention the corn. Because this wasn't just any grilled corn. The key here is good, flavored olive oil. I used a citrus blend. Drizzle your corn with the oil, sprikley with kosher salt, and add your favorite fresh herbs, rosemary and thyme work well. Wrap each piece of corn with foil, and grill for a total of about 30 minutes, rotating along the way. In the end, as you unwrap your corn packet, your nose will be greeted with a fresh, herby scent. This recipe will not disappoint.

Unlike most of our other parties, this time we had leftovers. I guess 12 pounds of chicken for six people is a bit much. But overindulging with friends is what holidays are all about. 

Barley, Fennel, and Radish Salad

2 cups black or pearl barley, rinsed –I couldn’t find black barley and didn’t want to use pearl, so I used a a hulled (whole-wheat) variety
Kosher salt
1 large fennel bulb (about 10 ounces), 2 tablespoons fronds set aside, bulb cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill plus 1/2 cup dills prigs, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
4 large radishes, thinly sliced, divided
1/4 cup oil-cured olives, pitted, halved lengthwise

1) Preheat oven to 425°. Place barley in a medium pot and add water to cover by 1 1/2 inches. Season with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until barley is tender and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes. Spread out barley on a large rimmed baking sheet; let cool.
2) While barley is cooking, toss fennel slices and 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread fennel slices out in a single layer on another rimmed baking sheet. Roast until fennel is crisp-tender and beginning to brown in spots, about 18 minutes. Let fennel cool on baking sheet. DO AHEAD Barley and fennel can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.
3) Whisk orange juice, lime juice, shallot, 2 Tbsp. dill, and zest in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 1/2 cup oil; season orange vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
4) Transfer barley to a large bowl; add roasted fennel, along with any accumulated juices on baking sheet. Add half of radishes, olives, and 1/4 cup dill sprigs. Drizzle 1/2 cup orange vinaigrette over and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on a large platter.
5) Scatter remaining radishes, reserved fennel fronds, and remaining 1/4 cup dill sprigs over salad. Pass remaining orange vinaigrette alongside for drizzling over.

Watermelon & Grapefruit Agua Fresca

18 cups chopped seedless watermelon (one 10-pound melon)1 1/4 cups fresh white, ruby red, or pink grapefruit juice (we used more grapefruit juice because the watermelon juice was too sweet)

1) Working in batches, purée watermelon in a blender until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Skim foam from surface and discard.
2) Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large pitcher; line sieve with cheesecloth (we skipped this step). Strain purée into pitcher (you should have almost 7 cups juice). Stir in grapefruit juice.
3) Fill glasses with ice. Divide agua fresca among glasses.

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