Thursday, June 08, 2006

Juancho's Highway Chicken

Join Juancho on his backyard BBQ adventures and discover a safe, sure and easy way to barbecue with optimum results - It's relaxing, it's fun, and it's absolutely delicious!!!
Chicken… There must be at least a thousand ways to prepare a chicken...
Yes, but sometimes your options are limited by circumstances... Just imagine you scrape your chicken from the highway after it's been hit by a couple of 18-wheelers... Nothing lost! After an hour in your BBQ it will look like this:

The Chicken...
Of course you're not going to wait until you actually find a flattened chicken on the tarmac. It's much quicker and easier to go to your local supermarket, buy your regular favourite bird, cut out the spine, wash it under cold running tap water, blot dry using paper towels, fold it open and flat, stick in two steel skewers crosswise to keep it flat, season it and stick it on your grill.

Hey, you can still tell your guests you found it on the highway. It's a great conversation piece!

A word of caution here: when working with raw meat, make sure all work surfaces, utensils and your hands are thoroughly clean before you start, and clean thoroughly immediately after you finish.

The Dry Rub:
Don't hesitate to use your own favourite dry rub. For the grilled chicken on the pictures we used Juancho's BBQ Mustard Rub. It goes like this:

  • 8 Tablespoons Brown Sugar (firmly packed)
  • 3 Tablespoons Seasalt (no iodine)
  • 4 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 4 Tablespoons Coarsly Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons Ground Mustard Seed

Put all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and mix thoroughly. Break any lumps of brown sugar using the back of a spoon.
Use about 2 to 3 tablespoons of rub for every 2 pounds (±1 kilo) of pork ribs or chicken, more on thicker cuts like a Boston butt or pork shoulder.
The above will yield about 1½ cup of dry rub. Put the remaining rub, if any, in an airtight jar or zip-lock bag. Stored in a cool and dark place it will keep for months.

The Barbecue:
To obtain sufficient grate area to accommodate a chicken spread out flat, we set up our little Weber for indirect grilling like this:

With the above grate arrangement you can first roast the chicken directly over the coals for a couple of minutes, then move it above the dripping pan for indirect grilling, skin side downwards, legs towards the fire.

For smoked chicken, add a few chuncks of wood on top of the hot coals. To increase the smoking effect you should soak this wood in water for at least a couple of hours, prefereably days. Apple, cherry or oak wood will do well, stay away from woods from coniferous trees such as pine or cedar.

Time to Relax:
With everything set, close the lid, open the vent valves on top and bottom, have a seat, relax, finish your drink. Watch that whisp of smoke curl up and spread its fragrant smell through the neighbourhood.

After about half an hour of smoking, open the lid and flip the Highway Chicken around, skin side upwards, legs towards the fire. If you feel the fire is burning too hot you may consider closing the bottom vent halfway. (Always keep the top vents fully open) If necessary, add some more smoking wood.

At this point in time, the chicken that we found on the highway looked like this:

As an option, you could consider glazing your Highway Chicken with a sugar- or honey-based basting sauce. Since we used Juancho's BBQ Mustard Rub, we also used Juancho's BBQ Mustard Glazing:

  • 2 Tablespoons Honey;

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil;

  • 1 Tablespoon Mustard;

Shake and/or stir the ingredients and brush on all sides of the chicken after about one hour of smoking. At the same time you could check the meat for doneness. If you feel that the chicken skin is turning too dark, cover the chicken loosely with aluminium foil and close the lid.

Dinner Time:
After about an hour and fifteen minutes of smoking without opening the lid too often, the chicken should be well done. To check whether the chicken is really done, I simply cut off a leg to see if the inside meat has the proper texture and prefereably comes off the bone easily. You could also check this by inserting an instant read thermometer in the thickest parts which should read about 180 degrees F (just over 80 degrees C).

Favourite Combinations:
This hot smoked Highway Chicken combines very well with smoked potatoes and coleslaw.

Favourite Drinks:
Cold mineral water with fresh lemon slices, cold cold beer, cold dry white wine.

More to come...

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