When I was a kid, my parents owned a fried chicken restaurant for a couple of years (“TJ’s Fried Chicken”… I don’t know who TJ was, they bought the business with the name). I ate a little too much chicken during those years. I would go to the restaurant after school to help out cleaning up and sometimes taking orders. My after school snack was anything we served in the restaurant, most of it was fried (chicken, egg rolls, biscuits, rice…) and as an eleven year old, that was A-Okay with me. But after a couple of years of after school snacks, I was “over” chicken… or as my friend PJ might say “Chicken and I broke up.” I do still love fried chicken on occasion, but generally I have a love-hate relationship with chicken. So imagine my surprise when I started craving BBQ chicken. Usually when my stomach wants BBQ, I think of ribs or pulled pork or maybe brisket. But chicken? I don’t crave chicken. (Well, except for an occasional perfect roast chicken).
Most of the BBQ chicken that I can remember was just grilled chicken with a too-thick layer of Kraft BBQ sauce slapped on top as the chicken was removed from the grill. But my craving was undeterred… I wanted good barbecue chicken. Could I make it? Was it possible? Then I picked up the July/August issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food and in its pages found barbecue chicken complete with a recipe for a classic barbecue sauce. Kismet?
I’ve already made barbecue chicken twice in the last week. At the risk of sounding immodest, I have to say that my barbecue chicken is fantastique.
I started with a whole chicken and cut it into 10 pieces (here is a helpful video from Chow on how to cut a chicken into 8 pieces. I cut the breasts in half so I got 10). Yes, it would be easier to buy a chicken already cut up, but it is usually cheaper to buy a whole chicken, plus you get to keep the back and other bits to make stock later, so I like buying whole chickens. (If you choose to buy a chicken already cut up, I would completely understand. I kind of enjoy it… but then I always liked dissecting things in anatomy class. If that makes me weird, I can accept it).
I seasoned all of the pieces (skin side and underneath) with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
I don’t know a ton about grills. I’m not going to enter into an argument over gas vs charcoal. I bought a Weber Baby Q about five years ago. I bought it because everyone I spoke to about grills raved about Weber and it has a cast iron grill surface… which I love. Anyway, before I gush too much about my grill let’s move on. I turned the grill on high to get it scorching hot. Brushed it off to remove any bits from the last round of grilling. Then carefully with a couple of paper towels wadded up, brushed on some canola oil (Dan suggested paper towels instead of a brush because it also cleans it a little while applying the oil).
I left the grill to heat another 2-3 minutes then arranged the chicken on the grill surface skin side down. I turned the grill down to medium-high, closed the lid, and set my timer for 10-12 minutes. There was a lot of sizzling and smoke… a lot of smoke… which was a little worrisome at first but then I realized that it was just a part of the process for creating perfect grilled chicken (I got the general instructions for grilling chicken from Everyday Food July/August 2009 issue under “Direct Grilling”). When the timer went off, I flipped the chicken and set the timer again for about five minutes. At the end of this timer, I brushed the chicken with about half a cup of barbecue sauce (recipe below) and closed the grill for another minute or so. At this point the chicken should be cooked through, but cut through the thickest piece to be sure. The barbecue sauce should look almost like a glaze… not just a glob of sauce on top (in my opinion). Forks are optional, napkins mandatory.
Classic Barbecue Sauce
(adapted from Everyday Food, Jul/Aug 2009)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground mustard
2 cups water
1 can (28 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1. In a medium saucepan over medium, heat oil. Cook onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add tomato paste and mustard. Cook until brick red in color, about 5 minutes.
3. Add 2 cups water, tomato sauce, molasses, worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth.
4. Bring to a simmer. Partially cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.
* cool completely before using.
* Refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 4 months.
* Makes 5 1/2 cups.
Corn and avocado salad
5 ears sweet white corn (5 because the sale was 5/$2), cleaned of silks and husks removed
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
small handful of cilantro, chopped (about 2 tablespoons-ish)
juice of 2 limes
2 medium avocados
salt and pepper
1. Using a knife, cut the kernels from the ears of corn.
2. In a medium bowl, mix corn kernels, onion, jalapeño and cilantro. Squeeze over the juice of upt to 2 limes (I start with 1 then taste it. Usually end up using between 1 1/2 and 2, but it probably depends on the size and juiciness of your limes).
3. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. You can either lay the avocado on top and give it an additional squirt of lime juice, or mix the chopped avocado into the corn.