Gosh, it has been a very long time since the last post here… In the gap, I’ve started a part-time barbecue business. Fun stuff! It’s called Egghead’s BBQ & Grill.
But this post isn’t about Egghead’s… it’s about some serious freaking chicken! Although most of what I do with Egghead’s is traditional southern barbecue (whole hog, brisket, etc.), lots of the folks I cook for also want chicken. I have a Paprika Chicken Thigh thing that is tasty and that I use a lot, but I’ve been wanting to expand the chicken horizons, as it were.
In my barbecue travels (yes, I can actually take tax deductible business trips to research barbecue now!) I’ve noticed a lot of “half chicken” menu items, so I figured that was a good place to start. I get a whole chicken, and cut it in, well, half. It’s not terribly complicated if you have a big knife… ahem… and remember to cut out the backbone. Sometimes it is easier to do this with shears, but I like the knife. I cut through the breastbone, then open up the cavity and cut down each side of the spine. Remove it (save it for stock, or whatever you do with chicken bits).
Then, some simple seasoning. I make a little mixture of kosher salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. You can use whatever ratio you like, I go with 3:3:3:2:2:1 respectively. Keep in mind that there are three teaspoons to the tablespoon, and the ratio makes a little more sense.
Okay, so chicken cut in half, backbone out, each half seasoned well on both sides. I just built a steel fire pit for my Egghead’s adventures (it’s 4 feet by 6 feet, 2 feet tall, to accommodate lots of whole pig!), and I like to play around with it even for small batches. But you don’t need a fire pit… any charcoal, lump, or wood fire in a grill-like enclosure will do nicely.
I decided to also char up some corn on the cob and a few sliced peaches (actually found some tree-ripened peaches!). Here we have the starting arrangement on the grill. The racks slide back and forth, so it’s easy to control how direct the heat is. Although all the picture shows are the charcoal briquettes, there are a few fist-sized chunks of hard wood in there, too (two chunks of apple, two chunks of pecan), because, well, because I love smoke!
I start the chicken halves skin-side down to make sure they get nice and crispy!
There’s all sorts of debate about how to grill corn. Some folks suggest soaking the whole ear, husk and all. Some folks suggest removing the husks and grilling it “naked” for maximum char. Personally, I take a middle approach. I remove most of the husks, but leave enough to still cover the cob. This lets me still get char on the kernels, but also means it won’t burn to a crisp if I leave it on a little too long… yeah, distractions happen!
After a while (in this case it took about 20 minutes, but your grill may work differently than mine) the skin will have turned a nice golden brown. This is the time to flip the chicken over and add the peaches! Note the nice color on the corn, too… not burned, but getting plenty of heat and smoke.
Hmmm… chicken skin… is there anything it can’t do?
As the chicken continues to cook, I like to rotate it every so often on the grill (about every five minutes) to make sure it is heating evenly. This also lets me keep tabs on the internal temperature (I don’t know what I’d do without my ThermaPen). Once the chicken has reached a safe internal temperature (165F is what I go by, and I check it in a few spots, since the halves are relatively large), it’s time to flip it again to get the final color and crispness on the skin.
Then, all that’s left to do is plate it up and chow down!
Sakes alive… crispy, salty skin… super moist meat… smokey goodness on the corn… sweet charred peaches! Wah! I’m getting hungry all over again!
I like to dress the corn with butter (duh), but also a little lemon or lime juice, followed by salt and pepper. Alternately, you can make a very simple chili-lime mayo (just add a little lime juice and chili powder to some mayonnaise) and spread it on the corn for super yumminess. The peaches? I don’t put anything on them. Although I’ve heard that a little vanilla ice cream is quite tasty on top, if you’re into that sort of thing.
There we are. Pit roasted chicken with grilled corn and peaches. Cheers!
So I was making a pulled-pork for some excellent visitors we were having at the office. These folks, although work colleagues, were actually visiting us while on vacation! Their office is out in Colorado, and our office is here in Maine (the corporate office is in Nashville), and they were on vacation to New England – decided to drop in for a spell.
Now, these folks work in Colorado, but used to live in Texas. They know their BBQ, and there were a number of “gauntlets” thrown about how New Englanders use Hamburger Helper and call it “bar-b-que.” Ha! 🙂
I decided to go with pulled-pork – it has universal appeal, and the pork here is of higher quality than the beef, and they get plenty of beef out west. Okay pulled-pork. I’ve done that a bunch, felt good, felt peppy. But I always try to do something new or different with each cook, and this time I decided to sauce the pork at serving time, which meant I needed a killer sauce!
After searching the Intertubes, and doing a few test batches, I found what I was looking for… a KC-style sauce with multiple dimensions of heat, a diversity of sweet, and a thick, glossy, scrumptious texture.
I actually had to make two batches of the final sauce, because once I started testing… I couldn’t stop eating it! I just sat there and ate three full cups of sauce… and I tell you, in a less forgiving culture I would have been arrested for sexual harassment for what I did to that pan of sauce!
3 T olive oil
1 small sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, roughly minced
2 c good ketchup
1/2 c yellow mustard
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/4 c teriyaki or soy sauce
1/4 c lemon juice (about two lemons)
1/3 c dark molasses
1/4 c local honey
1 t hot sauce (your favorite)
shot of bourbon
2 T chili powder (bonus for chipotle powder)
1 t pepper
1 t kosher salt
1 c brown sugar
Get a pot hot, add the oil, cut up the onions and garlic. Add the onions to the hot oil, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds.
Once the garlic has gotten fragrant, add dry ingredients except for the brown sugar. Let the hot oil extract some of the goodness from the dry stuff… maybe a minute or two. Then add the wet ingredients. Stir it all up, and bring to a boil. Add brown sugar, and return to boil. Then, reduce heat, and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. The goal is to reduce the liquid and thicken up the sauce, but not too much.
Makes 3-4 cups, depending on the degree of reduction.
This sauce is thick and smooth. You get an immediate punch of heat, but it dies away and the various sweets start to take over. Following all that is a bit of trailing heat. Damn… I used it to sauce the pulled-pork, and on the side for anyone who wanted more. Would also be brilliant on ribs, or, as I discovered, eaten all by itself!
[Thanks to Allison Everett for the use of a special phrase.]
So, our corporate office was super sweet to us and bought us a Big Green Egg last year. It took a little while for us to start using it (Mainers are traditionalists, if nothing else), but once we did it caught on in a big, green, eggy way!
Although my personal favorite work on the BGE was one of my first efforts, over-night smoked brisket, a very close second is this (relatively) fast and (very) easy strategy for chicken. The base recipe is from fellow BGE enthusiast Kevin Jett, and I tweaked it a bit for simplicity (because Mainers like simplicity, too).
First, choice of chicken… I love the thighs. They are juicy, flavorful, cook up quickly, and you can get them boneless. There really isn’t a down-side! So, use thighs. Don’t like thighs? Well, make up grilled leeks or something.
Obviously, this strategy is going to be BGE-specific, but you can use any smoker/grill, or even your kitchen oven. There’s about 15 minutes of prep, and an hour of cooking, but if you’re using wood chips (I recommend applewood) you’ll want to pre-soak them for a couple of hours.
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T smoked paprika
1 T Mrs. Dash (regular)
2 t kosher salt
Pre-soak applewood chips for a couple hours.
Get BGE up to 350F (for ours, this means the smoker lid is on, but wide open, and the lower vent is 80% open), prepared for indirect heat. Once it’s up to temperature, before applying the heat diffuser, toss in a handful of applewood chips.
Toss chicken in enough olive oil to lightly coat.
Mix the dry ingredients, and sprinkle over chicken in large bowl. Massage and work the spices into the meat.
Set chicken on smoker, and cook for about one hour (until internal temperature reaches 165F), turning at about 45 minutes. In final five minutes, brush a little honey onto each thigh.
Excellent when served with grilled zucchini and corn on the cob! (Photo credit: Wanda Clowater).