Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chicken on the Grill

It all started when I started making my own spaghetti sauce instead of opening a jar.

Once you taste the difference between things made from scratch (or close to it) and things that come from a factory, you’re hooked. At least, that’s been the case with me.

Processed foods – even the best versions – taste processed. There are plenty of pre-made sauces, dressings and such that I truly like, but usually after I make my own version I just can’t go back.

I've recently made the switch from using bottled barbecue sauce to making my own. Of course, in my house "barbecue sauce" can mean either of two completely different sauces. Barbecue sauce can be sauce you add to pulled pork, or a sauce you brush on chicken, pork chops or ribs during the final minutes of cooking. The latter is really a basting or brush-on sauce.

Remember, this is Carolina. Barbecue is a noun, not a verb. If someone from the Carolinas asks you what kind of barbecue sauce you favor, what they’re really asking is: vinegar, tomato or mustard?

When I make pulled pork, I want a vinegar-based sauce (recipe at the end of this post). For a long time, I've been using Sticky Fingers, Sweet Baby Ray’s or Stubb's (or a combination thereof) as a brush-on sauce and – in a pinch – I’d still use any of those.

However, one night when I was out of bottled sauce I decided to make my own. It was easier than running to the store. From there it's all been history.

The other night I had a whole chicken I wanted to do on the grill. I started by removing the backbone and flattening it out. Whole chickens cook much easier that way. Next, I rubbed it down with a little spice mix. I'd tell you what the mix was...but I have no earthly idea.

My house spice mix tends to get a little out of control, and I lose track of what's in there.

Here's the chicken ready for the grill.

Removing the backbone from a chicken is easy with the right kitchen shears. These were my grandmother's. They're vintage Washington Forge with Bakelite handles. They slice through chicken bones like warm butter.

I'd show you the chicken on the grill, but I wouldn't want anyone to call the health department regarding my ancient Weber. Instead, here's the chicken, fully-cooked and brushed with sauce.

This is a very simple summer meal in the South: barbecue chicken with potato salad and a green salad (not pictured). I just cut the chicken in half to serve, because it was a pretty small bird. What we didn't eat made an excellent lunch for me the next day.

Something sweet and slightly hot like barbecued chicken calls for just the right wine. Garnacha is perfect. This little Spanish number has bright cherry and raspberry notes with a hint of white pepper. It was a great choice for this meal.

Altovinum "Evodia" Garnacha Calatayud 2007 ($9.99, Winestore)

Here's my sauce recipe. I know this sounds like a witch’s brew, but I swear it’s quite tasty.

John's #7 Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes or so, until flavors meld.


Left Behind Child said...

Nice BBQ recipe. Quick question - why was the backbone removed? Is it just good form when cooking a whole chicken on the grill to keep it a consistent height from the flame? I've so much too learn.

Love those dang shears.

John said...

You're exactly right about keeping the whole bird the same distance from the heat. It's helps get the dark meat cooked through without drying out the breasts.

I haven't done many whole chickens on the grill, but it definitely helps. I'm in the learning process as well.

S said...

I'll be atempting this sauce soon, if for no other reason than it's awesome, because I don't know what I'll make to put it on. Thanks for the recipe.