Spatchcocked chicken and grilled green beans. Photos by Michael’s iPhone.

One of my missions in writing about food is to encourage more people to cook for their friends and families. Many, many people tell me, “I want to cook healthy affordable meals for my family, but I’m just so busy.”

So, I did a post on staple meals, since staple meals, the ones you return to on a weekly basis, are defined by ease, speed, goodness of flavor, and economy. (Another of ours is tomato basil pasta—see the iPhone video of a cool tomato water technique.)

The first thing you need to do to make it easy for your busy schedule is to plan! Have a plan.

The above is one of our summer favorites, the same staple meal I posted about before, only on the grill. Especially great on hot nights when you don’t want a pot boiling and the big oven on high.

Upside is great flavor. Two downsides. From the time you start the fire, the meal takes an hour and 15 minutes. The other downside is that you have to tend to the chicken when it’s on, so opportunities for leisurely coupling are more limited than they are with a traditional roast chicken.

I spatchcock the chicken for easier, quicker grilling and freeze the back bone and usually the wing tips. I tie the drumstick ends together for easier flipping. I season it with salt. (This can be done a day ahead; whoever gets home first can start the fire, remove the chicken from the fridge, and uncover it to let it warm up.)

Baked potatoes go into the toaster oven when the fire is started (this is optional, especially if you’re getting a little tubby, but it’s so damn good with chicken; I usually like to split one with Donna but she wanted her own this past week; OK, twist my arm).

Pick the green beans, then toss them with olive oil, salt, and minced garlic or minced shallot. I prefer shallot since I also add it to the chicken baste. Shallots are magic.

When the fire is ready, spread the coals across half the surface as you want to begin the chicken skin side down over direct flames (let the grill itself get good and hot before the chicken goes on it). Grill the bird till the skin side is nicely browned, about 10 minutes. If you get flareups early, which is common, cover the grill. Flip the chicken when browned, cook for 5 minutes, then move it to the cool side of the grill skin side up, and cover it so that it smoke-roasts.

While it’s cooking, I make a baste with the juice of 1 lime, ¾ stick of butter, 1 or 2 tablespoons minced shallot, 1 or 2 tablespoons dry mustard, pepper, and 2 tablespoons dried tarragon. (Use the tomato water method for melting butter into the lime juice if you want to keep the baste homogenized and creamy looking, then add the aromats.)

Baste every 10 minutes or so, saving enough baste to brush one more time just when you take it off. The chicken will take about 45 minutes, total. You can cook the beans over direct heat anytime, for about 10 minutes, till nicely charred and tender. I start them when the bird is almost done, in a covered grill, then finish them uncovered while the bird rests and Donna or I prepare the potatoes. (The mesh basket, which I have on my OpenSky page, makes this terrifically easy—as with asparagus, shrimp, and any other small items that can fall through the grill—but I have done them carefully without one; you just end up losing a few to the fire.)

Serve with ice-cold white wine. Heaven.

Save the bones to make a delicious, complex grilled chicken stock!

I invite you to share one of your summertime staples in the comments. Please note area of country, or country if outside U.S., if it affects the meal choice—I would love to hear from those in Australia and England if you’re reading, what your staple meals are!

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.