Not “The Best” Marinade for Chicken

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Chicken quarters on the Egg

A few days ago, a member on the Big Green Egg forum shared a link to a blog for  “The Best Grilled Chicken Marinade”. I thought it sounded ok, but the title was off putting. Something about bloggers claiming “the best” anything just turns me off. Makes me not want to even try it.

A day or two later, I find myself needing a marinade for some chicken quarters and I stumbled on that same site again. Was it fortuitous? Was it destiny? Or was it just dumb luck?

I made a few changes. Didn’t have white onion, so subbed red onion. Italian parsley for parsley as I had that on hand. Garlic? I almost always double what a recipe called for. Same with cayenne pepper. After mixing it up, I tasted it and decided it wasn’t quite there for me so I added in 2 tsp of Louisiana hot sauce (I went light knowing that Duke would probably be eating some chicken). Mixed it all up, reserved about a cup or so and dumped the rest on some chicken quarters and let it go just short of 24 hours in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 12oz Mexican beer (I used Tecate, but any popular ones like Dos Equis or Modelo Especial would work)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp chopped red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

The next day, I got the Egg ready for a raised direct cook at 450F. Notice I said raised? I wouldn’t try this at the normal grate level of a Kamado cooker or direct on any other grill. You want to cook this either above the gasket of your Kamado grill or indirectly on a gas or charcoal grill. All that fat will cause flare ups and flare ups are bad. I threw in a bit of peach wood cuz why not? I had it on hand and fruit wood goes good with poultry.

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My setup for this cook. I used an Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill Store and had my grate on the top level.

This cook took around 40-45 minutes, checking on it every 10-15 minutes, flipping and moving the chicken as needed. Poultry is generally safe to pull at 160F as it will continue to rise, but I like to take dark meat a little higher. 170-175 generally. Allows more fat to render out and the skin to get crispy.

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Getting there

The last 5-10 minutes, take the reserved marinade and brush it on the chicken, but watch out…it will cause your fire to start flaring up. If you aren’t using a Kamado grill, now might be a good time to take that chicken and move it to direct heat to get the skin to crisp up, but keep a close eye on it as it will burn fast.

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Done

I think the chicken came out pretty good. Had a good flavor to it, just a tad bit of heat, barely noticeable, but still tasty. Had a very interesting orange almost peachy color to it. Not sure what that was, but I know cherry wood can make poultry appear reddish, so I’m guessing it was from the peach wood.  Duke ate it up, but that’s not saying much. He’s hit or miss lately on whether he wants to eat meat on any given night. The wife and I both liked it. Was it the best? No. Was it the greatest? No. Was it good? Yeah, and I’d probably make it again. Probably tweak it a little more, so yeah…there you go. A pretty good marinade for chicken that won’t disappoint you that has potential to be really good if you doctor it up to meet your tastes.

Two pet peeves about the original post:

  1. I hate it when recipes say beer. Just beer. What kind of beer? An ale or a lager? Dark or light beer? Hoppy like an IPA? There are so many kinds of beer out there and each could add its own flavor. I went with a Mexican beer because I figured a light beer would work best with chicken. It was left in my fridge by somebody and I was willing to sacrifice it over one of my homebrews. Plus it wouldn’t be too hoppy. I think I’d like to try it again with a Hefeweizen or a Wit beer to see how that might work.
  2. “The Best” Who decided it was the best? Was there a panel of judges and if so, what are there qualifications? What was the judging criteria? Has it won any awards at any BBQ competitions? Look, I understand they are trying to…actually I don’t understand what they are trying to do. It might be good, it might be great, I just hate it when bloggers (or anybody) calls something “the best”

 

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Alabama White Wings

Geez…it’s been a long time. I s’pose I could give you a dozen reasons why I haven’t done a blog post in a while, but I’m not that kinda guy, this isn’t that type of blog and you probably don’t care. So I’ll just give you one…

Meet Duke
Meet Duke

I’m sure you don’t want to see a ton of baby pics. Nobody does unless they are family or close friends, but let me say he’s already made a pilgrimage to Lockhart. And while he didn’t get to try the brisket (come on, he only had two teeth at the time), I know he’s looking forward to it.

Duke's first trip to Black's BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
Duke’s first trip to Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas

OK. On to the real reason you are here. BBQ. You know my obsession with wings. My fifth food group. Love just about any type of wing out there. I’ll try any kind and I’m always searching for new recipes. So why did it never occur to me to add Alabama white sauce? No clue, but when Mrs. G showed me the recipe in her latest Southern Living, I knew it was on.

Now, I’m no expert on Alabama sauce. Never been there. Never eaten it out at a BBQ joint. I’ve made it once, but I have no idea how authentic that, or this recipe, was, but I was willing to try it. For you guys. ‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I am.

As I mentioned, this recipe came from Southern Living. June 2015 issue, page 118. I did make one change to the recipe. It called for Creole Mustard. I didn’t have any, so I used Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard. Didn’t feel like going to the store and I figured it was close enough. Oh, and I didn’t oil my wings and toss with salt and pepper. I skipped the oil and used John Henry’s Texas Chicken Tickler rub, although any good bbq or chicken rub would work.

Alabama White Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Mayo (We use Duke’s)
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Creole mustard (or spicy brown)
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 finely grated garlic clove

Makes about 2/3 cup which will be plenty for about 3 lbs of wings

Whisk together all the ingredients a coupla hours ahead of time, or overnight if you have the time, and park it in the fridge until you are ready to use

I’m not going to get into how to grill wings again. I’ve done it plenty of times. In fact, I don’t even do them the same way twice anymore. Get your grill somewhere around 400-450F indirect, cook turning every so often until temp reaches 175-180F. Thirty, forty minutes or so. Or a coupla beers. I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention. Just enjoying the evening You really can’t overdo wings like you can a chicken breast, and that higher temp gets you a crispy skin.

Grill chicken wings indirect
Grill chicken wings indirect

When the wings are done, place them in a large bowl and pour the sauce over and toss to coat.

Getting happy
Getting happy in the sauce

Once the wings are nice and coated, grab a roll of paper towels, or a real towel, dig in and enjoy.

Dinner is served
Dinner is served

I really wanted to have some tater tots on the side, but I remembered I didn’t have what you would call a healthy lunch, so I opted for a salad instead.

I thought the wings were pretty good. Interesting for sure. Creamy and tangy. And messy…like all wings should be. Mrs. G used the words “Unique” and “Different” and “Tangy”. Not my favorite wing ever, but not bad. I’d probably do them again. Maybe even try it with some half chickens or chicken pieces.

Like I said before, I have no idea if the sauce is authentic, so please don’t come cursing me and saying that this isn’t real Alabama sauce. And that no self respecting Alabaman (is that right?) would make it that way. I’m just a guy following a recipe.

I’m gonna try and start writing some more posts again. I’m not gonna promise one a week, or every other week. I don’t want to lie to you or myself. Hell, I might not make one a month. I’ve got other things that are demanding my attention, but when I get time and when I stumble on a good recipes worth sharing, I’ll try to get them up here for you. For now, I’ll leave you with one final parting shot…

Is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby on your lap? Goodnight.
Is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby on your lap? Goodnight.

Fajita Chicken Wings with a Creamy Chipotle Dipping Sauce

     Some of you may know that yesterday was National Chicken Wing Day (7/29/14). If you lived in my house, you would have known for sure. One of my favorite food holidays of the year. What’s not to love? Crispy, bite sized food? You’re expected to use your hands? People don’t frown down on you if you get a bit messy? And most often come with some kind of tasty dipping sauce? Check, check and check. Sounds like the perfect food group to me.

     I’m always on the look out for a new wing recipe. This time, I used a little influence from growing up in South Texas and a nod to Chris over at NibbleMeThis to come up with my version of fajita chicken wings and a creamy chipotle dipping sauce. A little fusion of Tex-Mex and chicken wings.

Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day
Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day

     While Chris’s recipe is a little more in depth with more ingredients and a marinade process, I kept mine fairly simple by just using Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning for two reasons. I like the flavor and I find that marinades can prevent the skin on chicken wings from getting crispy.

Ingredients

  • chicken wings
  • Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning (or any brand you may prefer)
  • cornstarch (optional)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 chipotle peppers, chopped + 1 tsp juice
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • dash of ancho chile pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener

Directions

  1. Lightly dust your chicken wings with corn starch (optional – this will help the skin get crispy as it cooks). Then dust the wings with fajita seasoning. Arrange the wings in a single layer on a platter and cookie sheet and place in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 12 hours. This process will allow the wings to air dry and will also help them crisp up.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set the bowl in the fridge and allow flavors to marry for an hour or two.

    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
  3. Preheat your grill to 400F. If using a Kamado style grill, set it up for a raised direct cook. If using other grills, set it up for a two zone cook (one side with the coals or burners on and one side without) so that you can shuffle the wings back and forth in case of flare ups.
  4. Grill wings for 30 minutes, turning two or three times to ensure even cooking. Keep an eye out for flare ups and move wings to the unlit side of the grill if necessary.
  5. Wings are safe to eat at 165F, but I usually like to take mine to 175-180 to get that crispy skin. Not to worry. The wings will not dry out.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.

     I went back and forth on what to serve with my wings. On the one hand, I wanted to keep with the Tex-Mex thing and thought about going with Mexican rice. Maybe some boracho beans. But that would require using a utensil and would counter balance part of the fun of wings…eating with your hands. Or I could just go with one of my other favorite foods…Tater Tots!! Yep, tater tots won out.

Wings and tots makes me happy.
Wings and tots makes me happy.

     It’s always interesting to switch things up on wing night. That first bite you expect to get some heat. These wings don’t bring the heat, though. They bring those flavors that you have come to expect from fajitas. Cumin, garlic, onion and a hint of citrus. The Chipotle Dipping Sauce doesn’t serve the same purpose as the normal bleu cheese or ranch that you get with Buffalo Wings. It’s not there to cool off your mouth from the heat from the wings. Most people enjoy their fajitas with sour cream. This sauce gives you that sour cream along with the smokiness of the chipotle peppers and some heat from the cayenne and ancho. Completely optional, but it adds that extra dimension to the wings that really set them off.

Demolished
Demolished

     Next time you are thinking about wings, try thinking outside the box. How could other cultures influence your wings and take them to a whole nother playing field? You might surprise yourself. You just might come up with a recipe that replaces Buffalo Wings as your favorite type of wings.

 

NMT Favorite Grilled Chicken Marinade

Our take on Nibble Me This Favorite Grilled Chicken Marinade
Our take on Nibble Me This Favorite Grilled Chicken Marinade

     In case you didn’t know, we’re big fans of Chris over at NibbleMeThis (which from here on out will be referred to as NMT). When he posted his recipe for his favorite chicken marinade, back in April, I printed it out knowing I wanted to try it. We messaged back and forth over Facebook this past Saturday and he has graciously allowed me to share it with you. That being said, you still should go check out his website. Right now. Go. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Pouring the marinade into a Ziplock bag full of chicken legs.
Pouring the marinade into a Ziplock bag full of chicken legs

From NMT’s post:

NMT Grilled Chicken Marinade

makes:  enough for 3-4 pounds of chicken pieces

prep time:  10 minutes

cook time:  none for the marinade

Ingredients

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup greek yogurt

2 tablespoons lime juice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dry minced onion

1/2 teaspoon dry minced garlic

Instructions

Mix ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces in a large zip top bag.  Seal, refrigerate, and marinate 4-8 hours.  Remove from marinade and drain off excess marinade before grilling.    Omit salt from the marinade if using a BBQ rub in addition to the marinade.  Tip for crispier chicken skin:  Remove chicken from marinades and allow to air dry on a raised rack in the refrigerator for 1 hour prior to grilling.

Legs on the Egg indirect at 400F
Legs on the Egg indirect at 400F

 We try and stick to recipes as close to possible the first time we try them out. However, we didn’t have minced onion, se we subbed in 1/4 tsp of onion powder instead. We let the chicken marinate for about 6 hours while we ran to the Farmer’s Market and did some other errands. When we got home, I set up the Egg for an indirect cook using  the Adjustable Rig from the Ceramic Grill Store and added a few orange and apple chips for smoke. I kept it light on the smoke as I wanted the flavor of the marinade to shine through rather than the smoke. I didn’t really time the cook, but I’d guesstimate that it took somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. Once the chicken hit about 160F, I pulled the rig and grilled the legs directly for about a minute of two to develop a darker color and get a little crispier skin.

Chicken is done
Chicken is done

The chicken was allowed to rest for a few minutes while the lovely Mrs. G put the final touches on some potatoes and tomatoes that we had picked up earlier in the day from the Farmer’s Market.

Dinner is served
Dinner is served

     We’ve been cooking a lot of our chicken lately using the indirect method. I feel like when you are cooking chicken using a raised direct method over charcoal, it turns out really smokey regardless if you add wood chips or chunks. The fat dripping onto the coals produces a ton of smoke. You might like that kind of flavor, but I find it hides all the other flavors you have worked so hard to develop. Going indirect allows you to avoid that nasty smoke but ends up making the chicken take longer to cook. I think as a result we might have lost some of the flavor from the marinade. While the chicken was moist and the buttermilk, yogurt and lemon helped to tenderize the chicken, we didn’t get the “unique tang” that NMT was talking about. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, I was just looking for that “tang”. The other thing I wish I would have done differently was to allow the chicken to air dry in the fridge for an hour to get crispy skin. While the last few minutes cooking directly did help get the skin crispier, air drying it would have done a much better job. Not that we had an hour for that last step as we got home late from running errands and we were starving. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Regardless, if you are looking for a different marinade for your chicken, give this one a shot and don’t forget to head on over to NMT and check out some of his amazing recipes and if you like what you see there, keep an eye out for his upcoming book The Kamada Smoker and Grill Cookbook. I’ve already got mine pre-ordered.

Chicken a la King

Out take on the classic Chicken a la King
Our take on the classic Chicken a la King

     Chicken a la King is a classic dish that dates back to the turn of the century. I’m not going to bore you with details on claims that it was invented by so and so in 1880’s at such and such a place, or this other guy in the 1890’s at this other joint. Like many popular dishes there seems to be some confusion on who created it, but know this…high society type folks were eating it at Claridges in London and Delmonico’s in New York.

     What was once a luxury dish (which often included ingredients like truffles and sherry or madeira), soon morphed into a disaster that some of us have less than fond memories. Things like cream of chicken soup and other canned items soon found their way into the dish which could now be found on cafeteria steam tables and pot lucks around the country.

     To see such a fine dish fall so far…for shame! For shame! But once was lost does not have to stay that way. Oh no! It can be salvaged once again. Am I being too dramatic? Anyway, here is our take on this once fine dish. It doesn’t have truffles, but we think it’s still pretty darn tasty.

You don't have to use canned soup to make our version!!
You don’t have to use canned soup to make our version!!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups diced chicken
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • about 6 Tbsp flour
  • 2  4.5 oz jars of mushrooms with juice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 4 oz jar of diced pimentos drained
  • 1 cup frozen peas (or peas and carrots if you so prefer)
  • salt and WHITE pepper to taste
  • serve over puff pastry shells, toast, biscuits, rice or pasta

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Sautee onion until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  2. Turn heat to medium high and slowly stir in 6 Tbsp of flour while stirring constantly. Allow to become “bubbly” and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms with their juice and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes or until thick.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir in half and half while whisking constantly.
  5. Add chicken and pimentos and allow to barely come up to a simmer. Add salt and white pepper and adjust to taste.
  6. Cook until chicken has warmed through and sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add frozen peas and continue cooking until they are warmed through.
  8. Serve over puff pastry shells, toast, biscuits, rice or noodles.
Did you think the first two pictures were how I was going to eat it? No way! Not nearly enough a la King for me.
Did you think the first two pictures were how I was going to eat it? No way! Not nearly enough a la King for me.

     I really can’t remember what my Mother’s Chicken a la King tasted like. I remember having it on toast. I decided to step it up and used puff pastry shells. So much better and if you are wondering, you can find them in the frozen food section of your grocery store.  Our version was creamy and packed a lot of flavor in it. Sure we could have used fresh mushrooms, but I wanted the liquid from the jarred ones and incorporate it in the sauce. And yes, most recipes do call for green peppers, but you know how I feel about those. I find the peas give it just the same visual aesthetics and I actually enjoy them.

     This is a quick dish taking less than 30 minutes to get on the table. It’s a great use for using leftover chicken or even turkey (would be a great way to use those Thanksgiving leftovers). I will admit in shame that the chicken we used was not cooked on the grill, I’ll do that next time. No, this was a no muss no fuss rotisserie chicken picked up from the store (hang my head in shame). Sometimes you just have to take shortcuts and honestly it worked out just as well. So if you are looking for something to do with those leftovers or you just need a quick weeknight comfort food fix, try out this version of chicken a la king.