Welcome Back Winter: Northern Tier BBQ
We are betwixt by the fire and by the ice. That oft volatile, yet seasonal line between winter’s bond and that of a lush, green lawn. Of snow banks and sun burn. Of golf clubs and wind chill. Of spring in Minnesota. This evening, upon the outer crust of the midlands of April, standing over a beautiful bed of coals, working the pit, admiring a lawn full of grass whilst blizzards gather headlong in the west, I am reminded yet again, of the heady pleasures of Minnesota BBQ. Sleet taps like ball bearings over the land now, and the cold wind curls around the old kettle grill – the wood smoke wrapped in eddies. Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts. Its not easy, let me tell you, fighting off wind chill induced hypothermia while procuring a perfectly executed rack of ribs. But even so, some body has to do it, and we are up here despite, giving it a go. For it is the journey anyways, that we favor most in BBQ. The rest sorts itself out, by and by.
On the grill tonight, blizzard or not, we’re doing up a house favorite – BBQ chicken quarters.I know you’re tempted in the grocery aisles to pick up your packages of boneless chicken breast, but I have long held to the notion, that birds we’re designed to have their bones in them. More over, that the bone imparts a noticeably better flavor on your meat’s end game. Indeed, we are men, and we just know how ever it is men know things, that meat on the bone is poetically correct, and the very best way to go. And chicken quarters have lots of bones, beautifully placed alongside vast reserves of meat. It is a good thing. A worthy bone to meat ratio. Thus, and amid the falling sleet, the quarters were rubbed down in olive oil, and dutifully dusted in a liberal fashion with Grill Mates Chicken Rub. This while the fire matured, and the darkened, snow-laden clouds advanced upon our fair hamlet.
As usual, well that is if your interested in a crispier skin, we seared these lovely quarters a couple minutes per side, over some hot coals. Then of course tucked them back, to the cool side of the grill for the rest of the ride. We used apple wood for the smoke flavor tonight. Apple is an apt choice for all things poultry, and one can nary go wrong using it. Just a chunk. You do not want it bellowing like a choo choo train, as pretty as it may look. Nice thin wisps of smoke are what you’re after. Too much smoke is actually possible, and over-doing it has been known to result in bitter tasting meat. Indeed, it is well to think of smoke perhaps as a seasoning, and not an ingredient, like so many newcomers to the BBQ sciences postulate. Anyways, the lid thus was put into place, and the smoke began to curl. And for a while, tho the winter tempest was conspiring, all the world was right. That glorious, contented feeling, patron to wafting wood smoke, and savory meat sizzling quietly aside hot embers. The last ten minutes of the cook, I went ahead and applied the BBQ sauce. Brush strokes of a Meat Mona Lisa! The aromas of smoked chicken and apple wood a waft in the chill, April air. Man! Say what you will, but this is living!
Ain’t too many things finer before a spring snow storm, than a steaming plate of good BBQ chicken. Meat on the bone. It not only sets a man straight in his ways, but motions him to accept the prevailing weather scenarios with aplomb. To be OK straddling that curious but seasonal line the sand right now, which seems so privy to both fire and ice. Good BBQ knows no meteorological boundaries. It can’t you see, as we won’t allow such foolery, less we keepers of the northern flame would have to hang up our tongs half the year long. And that just ain’t right. Its not right at all.
In the morning, winter had returned, making itself at home on the pit once again. So be it. For a hearty flame still burns here, deep in the frigid north. And the wood smoke shall rise again. Amen.