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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bourbon Smoked Chicken

For some time bacon is turning up in all sorts of recipes (I recently saw some candied bacon garnishing the top of an candied apple cheesecake). It seems lots of us Americans just can't get enough of the stuff. I felt excited when I realized this recipe makes chicken taste like bacon--different texture but the same flavor. Really great!

Some readers may not feel comfortable with cooking with alcohol. I did an online search for recommendations and some said you could substitute sparkling apple cider and vanilla. I've not tried this but if you want to give this recipe a try and don't want to use the bourbon, try a combination of 1/2 c sparkling apple cider and 1/8-1/4 c vanilla.


Bourbon Smoked Chicken

Source: Cook's Country Magazine
Serves: 8

1 1/4 c bourbon
1 1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teas pepper
2 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) whole chickens
1 c wood chips
4 (12 inch) wooden skewers, optional

Bring bourbon, soy sauce, sugar, shallot, garlic, and pepper to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Set aside 3/4 c of the mixture for basting while cooking. This marinade can be refrigerated for up to 3 days ahead.

To cut the chickens into halves, use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbones; freeze and save  backbones to make chicken stock at a later date. Flip the chickens over and flatten slightly. Using a chef's knife, split the chickens in half lengthwise, cutting right through the center of the breast bones. It will take a bit of effort but can be done easily enough. (If you prefer, you can ask a butcher to halve the chickens for you.) Cut 1/2 inch deep slits across breasts, thighs, and legs, about 1/2 inch apart. (I thought this was the hardest part of the preparation--next time I think I'll shoot for 1/4 inch slits.) Tuck the wingtips behind the backs. Marinate the chicken halves in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to 24, turning the halves from time to time. Marinating may be done in a couple of gallon zip-lock bags or in a large covered bowl or container (my preference since I don't have to throw the bags away).

Just before grilling, soak the wood chips in water for 15 minutes and drain. Place them in a foil packet and cut several vent holes in the top.

These instructions are for a charcoal grill using a chimney charcoal starter. If you own a gas grill, go to the link above and get instructions for that variation.

Open the bottom vent halfway. Start a large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (about 6 quarts). When the top coals are partially covered with ash, pour the briquettes into a banked pile against the side of the grill so that the charcoal is only over one half of the grill, leaving the other half for indirect cooking. Place the wood chip packet on the coals. Set the cooking grate in place and cover, venting the lid halfway. Heat the grill until hot and wood chips start to smoke, about 5 minutes.

Clean and oil the grate. Place the chicken halves on the side of the grill without briquettes turning the halves so that the drumsticks are pointing towards the fire. Baste every 15 minutes with the reserved bourbon/soy sauce mixture. Cook for 75-90 minutes, checking with a meat thermometer to see that the breasts are 160F and the thighs are 175F. After 45 minutes, rearrange the placement of the halves keeping the drumsticks towards the heat. All the sauce mixture should be used. When the chickens are cooked, remove them to a platter or cutting board and tent loosely with foil and allow them to rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve. For instructions on carving a cooked chicken see this video: carving a chicken  (I'm hoping you can access the link without an account--let me know if you can't.)

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