Entertaining Friends and Barbecued Chicken

Dinner Party

Saturday night dinner – L-R:  Tim, Julie, Hilly, Beez, Dick, Bill (Hilda taking picture)

Monday:         Roast Poblano, Corn and Zucchini Tacos

More Orecchiette

Tuesday:         Orecchiette with Sausage and Arugula

Wednesday:    Leftovers
Thursday:       Leftovers

Friday:            Dinner at Field Club, courtesy of Hilda and Tim

Late summer flowers

Late summer flowers – Casa Stuarti

Saturday:       Julie’s man-candy appetizers (bacon at the top of its game) /
Hilda’s Goat Cheese with Endive
Poached Salmon with Dill Sauce
Barbecued Chicken
Prosciutto, Burrata and Pan-Roasted Peach Salad
Vanilla Ice Cream with Stewed Berry Sauce

The title of this post works in three different senses.

  1. We were in fact entertaining friends over the weekend. Hilly and Dick are fine friends whose children and ours are roughly the same age.  And it’s been interesting to compare their growth and the challenges and joys they have brought us.  We hadn’t seen Hilly and Dick for some time and that made it a very special weekend, indeed.
  1. Our friends are always entertaining us. Hilda and Tim took us to dinner on Friday, and Tim treated us to a round of golf at the great Pittsburgh Field Club on Saturday, and Hilda and Julie brought food to the house on Saturday.
  1. In perhaps the most significant sense, our friends are simply entertaining: bright, thoughtful, willing to share their own lives and triumphs and difficulties and good cheer with us.  They are worth more than all the dinners we’ve cooked and all of all of my books and then some.

One of the media’s current memes concerns the growing number of disconnected people in this country – grown men eating Cheetos and playing video games in their parent’s basement, young women married to their jobs, and so on.  I don’t know whether this is correct – though I think that if it is, the growing number of pedestrians mowed down as they focus, single-mindedly on their cell phones, is removing a fair number of them from our midst.  Evolution is funny that way.  “Funny” is not the correct word, but I’ve got to publish this post and it will just have to do.

What I had wanted to say, before I slipped into that dark aside on expiring pedestrians, was that if there are a group of disconnected folks out there, I feel a great sorrow for them.  I can’t imagine living without the wonderful friends we have in Pittsburgh and all over the country.  People to party with, make fun of and be made fun of by, or just to hang around.  The support, direct and indirect, that these relationships bring us is life-sustaining.

But how, you may well ask, does all of this connect to barbecued chicken?  Well, in the same way that sautéed chicken breasts are the go-to dinner of the charity circuit – and our country could not function without its wonderful charities – in the same way, barbecued chicken is a go-to dinner for weekend cookouts with friends.

When you’re past the grilled hot-dog and canned beer stage (a sad rite of passage) and still entertaining a group of friends, it is imperative that you be something other than the cook, head waiter and bottle washer.  You want to talk and to listen, to laugh and to dance and just to be in the mix with the others.  This is not possible if you’re roasting a whole hog or smoking ribs or . . . you get the idea.  You need something that can be largely done ahead of time, that you can finish on the grill in a reasonable amount of time, and that will allow you to hang with your friends.

Welcome to our favorite barbecued chicken.

We have cooked this dish three times in the last month and every time it has come out well and people have remarked on how delicious it is – because it is.  So, we’re passing it along because:  a.  We are tired of cooking it, but not tired of eating it.  How about cooking this and inviting us over?  b.  This is really good:  the barbecue baste has enough spice and heat to make the chicken interesting and enough sugar to yield a deeply charred but crispy and delicious skin.  c.  It is also simple and healthy for everyone but the chicken.  d.  With a little organization and efficiency, you can spend lots of time with your friends and still collect those compliments to the chef that you know you crave.  [If you are less needy than I, just focus on pleasing your friends.  And don’t be so smug.]

(I will insert picture as soon as Beez gets home from golf and provides me with one)

Barbecued Chicken

(adapted from bon appétit)*

*If you don’t get bon appétit, steal it from your dentist’s office or copy it at the library.  It will give you enough dinner recipes in one year to entertain your friends for a decade.

Timing:                        One hour for the barbecue sauce (can be done ahead)

50 Minutes to Cook the Chicken

Ingredients:

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces  (bon appétit says that you should cut the breasts in half before cooking – I say afterward since that will give you a juicier chicken.  FYI, Whole Food and some other grocers selfl whole chickens cut into eight pieces (breasts, drumsticks, thighs and wings).  Just bag the backbone, which they also include, and put it your freezer for making stock.

2 Tablespoons 4-3-2-1 spice rub (4 parts kosher salt, 3 parts brown sugar, 2 parts paprika, 1part cayenne)

For the Barbecue Sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup fresh orange juice (1 ½ navel oranges)
1/3 cup light brown sugar (dark brown will work)
1/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mustard powder
Kosher salt

Prep:

Measure out all of the ingredients for the barbecue sauce (you can put the garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne and black pepper in the same bowl).  You do not want to be searching for ingredients while your sauce burns.

Pat the chicken pieces dry.

Make the 4-3-2-1- spice rub and season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of it.  Be generous – some of the rub will fall off during the initial cooking.

Cook the Barbecue Sauce:

You can do this up to one week ahead, or do it the afternoon of your party

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add the tomato paste and cook for about 90 seconds – it should turn dark red.

Add the garlic power, onion powder, paprika, cayenne and black pepper and cook, stirring, for about a minute.  Add the vinegar, the orange juice, the brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard power.  Then add 3 cups of water.

Cook, stirring occasionally, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of pan for about 50 minutes.  The goal is to reduce the sauce by half to concentrate its flavors.

You can set the sauce aside while you par cook the chicken – or refrigerate it, if you’re cooking one or more days ahead.

Grill the Chicken:

Build a medium-hot fire.  Take the seasoned chicken (remember the 4-3-2-1 spice rub?) and place on the grates, after the grill is hot.  Turn, and move, as needed, to avoid flare-ups.  What I do, when there is a party is to pretty much ignore the chicken, turning it once, for the first 30 minutes.  This leads to flare-ups and a good deal of char but, honestly, after you’ve basted the chicken, the charred parts taste just fine.

Now it’s time to baste.  Excuse yourself from the party.  Baste and turn maybe 10 times for about 10 more minutes.  (If you don’t trust yourself, use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 F)

Remove the chicken from the grill.  Using a large knife and a meat hammer to drive the knife through the breast bones, cut the breasts in half.  Plate and serve.  NOTE:  The wings are the best piece because they present the most basted and charred/crisp skin per volume.

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