The first long weekend of the season isn’t always the best date to plan an outdoor party — more often than not we get a sprinkle of rain or even a dash of the white stuff.
We’ve got that under our belts now so we can look forward to enjoying our backyards for what I hope is a long summer season.
If you aren’t a griller these recipes are wonderful in the oven — not quite as smoky as off the barbecue, but tangy and delicious all the same.
Season’s Best Barbecue Chicken
You can’t beat the juiciness of legs on the grill, but if you want chicken breasts then you should cook chicken breasts. Who am I going to tell?
Naturally you can buy a bottled sauce and some are pretty good, but if you have an extra few minutes give this recipe a try. It packs a wallop of flavour with a little heat and a little sweet and a little salt, but is balanced and absolutely perfect combined with the mild taste of chicken. It pairs well with pork chops, too, but may be a little sweet for beef or fish.
The secret for the best chicken ever off the grill is low and slow then searingly hot at the tail end. First you need a decent dry rub then a great wet mop. The same holds true if you just plan to bake the bird.
Here’s my best dry rub for chicken and pork and it makes lots, so put it in a bottle and keep it close by for the whole summer.
The barbecue sauce is sweet and as spicy as you like it. I use a full spoonful of hot sauce, but it’s easy to control because it’s added at the tail end of cooking.
If you have never used liquid smoke it’s not a chemical or artificial ingredient, it’s a natural distillation from smoke that adds great taste to any barbecue sauce.
If you really don’t want to buy it, the sauce is still sensational, but it adds a lot, I have to say, and it’s not hard to find these days. It should be near the barbecue sauce and ketchup in the condiment aisle.
I feel compelled to tell you one other thing about this barbecue sauce, which will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Mix it half and half with decent mayonnaise and you have an incredible condiment for burgers. Half and half with ranch dressing and an extra spoonful of vinegar to loosen it and you have the best Mexican salad dressing you will ever taste.
Barbecue Dry Rub
1/4 cup each hot and smoked paprika (or 1/2 cup of the one you prefer)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ancho chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup garlic powder
3 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. mustard powder
2 tbsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. cayenne pepper, less if you prefer a milder heat
Sweet and Spicy ChipotleBarbecue Sauce
1 medium onion, minced
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, smashed but left whole
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, smashed but left whole
2 or 3 canned chipotle peppers, minced, along with 2 tsp. of the adobo sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce, more or less to taste
5 lbs. chicken drumsticks and thighs — do not cut them apart
For the rub, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly so there are no streaks of one colour. Place in a tightly sealed jar.
For the sauce, fry onion in butter in a heavy-bottomed pot until golden and soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook together a minute or two, until fragrant. Add minced chipotles along with adobo sauce, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and cumin. Simmer together 20 minutes. Add liquid smoke and hot pepper sauce — to taste — and cook another 10 minutes; refrigerate in a tightly sealed container.
For the chicken, rub vigorously and generously with dry rub and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Any longer than that and put it back in the fridge.
If you are using charcoal, prepare it as you always would but push it over to one side so the hot coals are under only half of the grill. Place the chicken skin side down on the part of the grill not directly over the hot coals. If you are using a gas burner, set the heat on low. Close the cover and cook 10 minutes. If you are using an oven roast at 350 F for 10 minutes.
Flip the chicken over and cook another 10 minutes, swapping around the pieces so the ones nearer the heat get moved to the edge and vice versa. Brush liberally with sauce and move the chicken directly over the hot burner or coals — watch carefully now. If using an oven, turn up the heat to 425 F. When the skin is crisp and the sauce dark brown and burnished — maybe 10 minutes more — flip the chicken for the last time and coat thoroughly with more sauce.
It should take 40 to 50 minutes total, depending on the heat of your grill and the size of the chicken legs. Look for an internal temperature of 165 F.
Serve with your usual fabulous backyard sides.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.