Cooler Days: Honey Roasted Chicken Quarters
We patrons of the pit, we favor all the seasonal folds, but there is just something about the cooler weather that stirs us. That tugs on tender heart strings that which tarries deep in our souls. And so here recently, a few weeks ago I should say, when summer’s ante of stifling heat and humidity was displaced by a sweetly descending cool air mass, we were at once, and undeniably, in favor. Forty degree nights in the middle of summer, hark, that is something we ought to bottle up and sell in the sleep aids section at the local drug store. Glory be but it was lovely. For what a noble thing it is after all, to be able to walk to mail box in the evening, and not, when it’s done and over, come back to the house glistening in a sheen of your own rank juices, and smelling not that much better than the neighbor’s dog. Or for that matter, the neighbor.
It felt good to do a little BBQing too, in the acute absence of sweat. A foretaste, if you will, of our favorite grilling season to come… Winter! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I banked the coals as usual, a whole chimney full, to one side of the old kettle grill. Creating the thermal trifecta of modern grilling. One zone directly over the coals for searing and intense heat. Another zone opposite the hot coals, for cooler, in-direct cooking. And a dicey sort of Switzerland affair right smack in the middle, which sometimes comes in handy too. The earth is comprised of various zones of temperature too, for what its worth, which keeps things working properly and efficient like. So be it with our grills also! Anyways, got the coals situated, the grill scraped down with the wire brush, tossed on some ceremonial peach wood chips for smoke, and after a quick glance past the towering spruce tops, I placed two lovingly prepared chicken leg quarters on the hot rack. They sizzled accordingly, over direct heat for a minute or so per side. Then slid them back, traversing Switzerland with a twist of the tong, to the coolest section of the grill, whereupon they would log some significant time. I followed suit, naturally, in my BBQ chair.
This is where we keepers of the grill are at our very best. Pit-side, lovely beverage in reach, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, it was sufficient pleasure to watch the peach smoke waft from the damper, and the clouds, back-lit by a golden sun, float silently overhead. I sipped my pit beverage in the favorable company of that gloriously cool breeze, courtesy of the Canadians I think, and mused over tonight’s cook as it were. And what it was, was honey roasted chicken. Or least wise that’s what I was calling it. Let me tell you a little more about it, and how it went down, by and by.
It was just going to be plain old chicken, seasoned with a wee bit of garlic salt and what not, or would have been had not I seen the bottle of honey sitting on the counter. Like many a pit keeper, we are smitten for the sweeter things. But it has also been a hard and fast rule in the grilling arts to refrain, if you can, from adding sugary things to your meat at the beginning of a cook, lest your spoils fall victim to fates of burning sugars. Good, sage advice, and I’ve never really listened it. My bride seems to think I hardly listen at all, in point of fact, when I’m in the vicinity of sugar. Especially sugar shaped like donuts. But I do. And so with these chicken quarters, and against the grain of conventional grilling wisdom, I rubbed them things down with liberal onslaughts of honey. Under the skin even, and everywhere else. Then, I hit them in a medium-to-light fashion with some SuckleBusters Competition Rub, for to add another layer to the flavor profile. And that was it. These chickens were ready for their destiny according to the pit!
In turn, they made their way to the grill along with one of our pit favorites, a bulging packet of tinfoil potatoes and corn. A suitable meal for thee, whilst the north winds beckoned through the towering cottonwoods. Potatoes were placed over direct heat the entire time, flipped once mid-way through the cook for good measure. The chicken, as mentioned, was seared carefully at first over the coals, not long, and then tucked to the coolest regions of the grill for the rest of the culinary journey. Harnessing the various temperature zones, in a harmonious dance between meat and flame. Tongs in hand, you the pit master are the conductor of your very own meat orchestra. Free to draft the song of your choice. Choose wisely then, amid the smoke and the flame , and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to a better end. Keep your honey-coated meat well away from the coals, over on the cooler parts of the pit, and check in on them often. Employ a fair degree of your pit master instincts, and with any luck at all, you should find a sweet, caramelized, juicy, meat Nirvana there, sizzling at the end of a rainbow, where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
Honey Roasted Chicken and Tin foil Potatoes, lightly smoked with peach wood. Grilled in paradise. And smells a heck of a lot better than the neighbor’s dog.