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SOUTHERN DREAMS: carolina-style bbq chicken

Lately I’ve become consumed with cooking old school American meals with strong Southern roots. More than a general nostalgia for Southern foods, I’m feeling a confusing intrigue for barbecue sauces. There are so many distinct flavors that switch from one county line to the next, and I’m completely and utterly fascinated. This is my first foray into a sauce that isn’t colored crimson, and it’s fantastic. También en español. 

The only connection I have to the South is that my grandfather pretended he was from there. Well, not really, but whenever I imagined his childhood I envisioned some dusty back road in the middle of Louisiana. He was actually born and raised in California in the San Joaquin Valley but you’d swear by the amount of fried chicken, biscuits, green beans and gravy (every thing made with Crisco of course!) that his family had never left Texas. In all fairness, he was just an old-fashioned guy, in both his food and his demeanor, which is a general attribute I have unconsciously linked to the South and it’s people.

It was him that taught me how to cook. We had wildly different tastes in food; he was old-school traditional and I wanted to experiment so that the recipe was MINE. But our processes are generally the same. Wake up in the morning with a food craving – it’s not odd to obsess over a pulled pork sandwich at 9am – and plan your day accordingly. I hate meal planning and shopping for the entire week. I struggle to write out my recipes – a challenge that I’m slowly overcoming with this blog – and use other people’s recipes as a suggestion rather than a blue print. And I become a passive-aggressive terror when I’m cooking with other people, the only difference being that he was definitely not passive.

Lately I’ve become consumed with cooking old school American meals. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe I’m too excited by the grilling possibilities of my brand new parrilla. Or maybe I watched 7 episodes of True Detective in two evenings and am obsessed with it’s Southerness. As an aside, I was disappointed that McConaughey took home the Oscar over Chiwetel Ejiofor, but goddamn give that man every award for True Detective. All of them. And if you haven’t watched the show, binge!

More than a general nostalgia for Southern foods, I’m feeling a confusing fascination with barbecue sauces. It started with a simple photo of North Alabama White BBQ Sauce, a mayonnaise-based sauce that is so regional that if you head south of Birmingham apparently no one will know what you’re talking about. I have since googled ‘barbecue sauce recipe’ and saved an incalculable number of recipes, and this is my first foray into a sauce that isn’t colored crimson.

To make this chicken with Carolina style mustard barbecue you will need the following:

  • 3/4 cup of mustard
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (traditional recipes all recommend Louisiana hot sauce, impossible to find in BA so I instead used Cholula that I brought back home from my last trip to the US)

Note: I had plenty of leftover sauce for dipping later, and there is still some left in my fridge. The sauce is plenty for marinating double or triple the amount of chicken.

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You will also need to make a dry rub (this was for 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks):

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Wash and dry the chicken. Mix together your dry rub and pat into the thighs and drumsticks. You could let this sit overnight but seeing that I’m not one for meal planning we’ll let each other slide with an hour of marinating, covered in the fridge. Let chicken come back to room temperature. While the chicken marinates prepare the sauce and let sit in the fridge so that the flavors can mix. This is when thinking ahead of time comes in handy, as the sauce will taste much better if you let it sit for a few hours.

Heat up your barbecue (for a recipe like this I prefer a stove top griddle) and be sure wipe it down with oil. Cook chicken starting skin side down over indirect heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until both sides are browned with those pretty grill marks. While chicken browns over the grill heat up the oven to 400°F. Once chicken has turned a nice brown put onto a roasting tray, ladle on your mustard sauce, and bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer the thickest part of the thigh should be 175°F.

bbq mustard

I ate this chicken with some traditional sides: simple mashed potatoes and some blanched green beans that I cooked an additional 5 minutes over the stove with garlic, butter and lemon zest.

The flavor of the chicken was spectacular. I loved the color of the mustard, which I worried would be an unappetizing brown but turned out a pretty honey color. I smothered it all over in the roasting process and although this is a sauce that is one part mustard, one part vinegar, the tang softened up and took on a much more complex flavor with a loud spice and slight sweetness. The grilling gave the chicken those beautiful grill marks but transferring it to the oven with the sauce made the end result a juicy delight. Paired with these old-school sides and I felt right at home.

I think this is going to have to be featured at a MASA dinner event very very soon. What do y’all think? 

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