Can you believe that I’ve never made barbecue chicken before? I’m fully aware that it’s a summer BBQ staple, ensuring a grill wafting with delicious smells and a table full of people with sticky hands and sauce-smeared grinning faces. Which of course, makes them the perfect centerpiece for my Summer’s-Last-Stand BBQ Menu (components of which I’ll be posting about each day this week).
But barbecue sauce has never been my thing. I think a certain fast-food chain is mainly to blame for that: those little rectangular vessels of the stuff seemed to accompany all my childhood friends’ Happy Meals, a dunking pool for McNuggets and French fries—and a constant source of nose-wrinkling on my part. Growing up, I also eschewed the barbecue-flavored chips, much to my friends’ dismay. The sauce was just too sweet, too cloying, too overpowering for me.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
I always knew, though, that there was a way to do it right. And I also suspected that the way didn’t involve popping open a squeeze-bottle from the grocery aisle. I wanted to make a homemade sauce and I turned to Ina, she who I trust when it comes to finding a failsafe version of a classic recipe.
As it turned out, the sauce was absolutely delicious. But it also turned out that, instead of popping open just one super market-aisle bottle, I popped open no fewer than a dozen jars (see below), emptying most of them in the process. I’ll warn you now: this is a recipe that is certain to (a) empty out your refrigerator door shelves, (b) clean out your pantry, (c) put a significant dent in your wallet, (d) make way more than necessary (you could definitely cut the recipe in half and still have plenty to sauce enough chicken for six to eight people), (e) require a mid-recipe trip to the market because you will inevitably run out of something along the way (thank you, Kevin), and (f) completely, totally blow any other store-bought barbecue sauce out of the water.
It’s the item listed in (f), of course, that will have me making this sauce for summers to come and that has me thanking my lucky stars that I’ve got a significant amount of it stashed in the freezer. I used the sauce on skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks (using two-thirds of the sauce to marinate it overnight, reserving the other half for brushing the chicken pieces as they grilled), but the variations are endless: ribs, pork chops, firm tofu, salmon, shrimp. And, since we have a gas grill rather than a charcoal one, I baked the marinated chicken in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes before finishing them off (and swabbing them with additional sauce) on the hot grill for another 20 minutes, where they smoked and sizzled and crisped up.
Summer’s Last Stand: We’re making the most of one of the last weeks of summer by meandering through the Canadian Rockies. As such, comment moderation and email responses will be slow this week. But, while we’re away, daily posts will highlight components of a Summer’s-Last-Stand BBQ Menu. Up tomorrow: grilled corn on the cob and smoked paprika butter.
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via Food Network
2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), quartered, with backs removed*
1 recipe Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows**
Marinate the chickens in 2/3 of the barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Heat the coals in a charcoal grill. Spread the bottom of the grill with a single layer of hot coals and then add a few more coals 5 minutes before cooking, which will keep the fire going longer. Place the chicken quarters on the grill, skin side down, and cook for about 45 minutes,*** turning once or twice to cook evenly on both sides. Brush with the marinade as needed. The chicken quarters are done when you insert a knife between a leg and thigh and the juices run clear. Discard any unused marinade.
Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side.
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste (10 ounces)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
In a large saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and garlic with the vegetable oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.
* I used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks.
** You can easily halve the sauce recipe and have enough to sauce the 5-6 pounds of chicken, brush the chicken while it grills and serve additional sauce on the side. If you make the entire batch, be prepared to freeze some leftovers (which is not a bad thing).
*** We have a gas grill, so I baked the chicken in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes and finished them off on the grill for about 20 minutes, brushing often with some of the reserved sauce.