New York City is one of the food capitols of the world. There are literally too many restaurants to count. Matt and I try to take full advantage of living here by eating out often. After 8 years up here, we’ve built a decent repertoire of favorite places. It will continue to grow, as there are probably, oh, I don’t know, a few thousand places we haven’t yet tried. One of my favorite places to eat in New York is Hill Country. It’s not only a barbecue restaurant; it’s specifically a Texas barbecue restaurant. Texas barbecue does two things extremely well: salt and pepper beef ribs, and mesquite smoked brisket. The brisket is definitely the specialty at Hill Country. It’s served on a piece of parchment paper with barbecue sauce and some toast. It’s phenomenal. It’s not surprising for them to sell out on any given day. So when I get up to the counter at Hill Side, and I order the barbecue chicken, my dining companion always gasps and says, in shock, “You’re not getting the brisket???” No. I’m not.
Because that’s how much I love barbecue chicken.
First of all, I just plain love chicken, especially dark meat. Crisped chicken skin is one of my vices. So when you add in barbecue elements to something I already love so dearly, it’s a version of food heaven for me. I love that crispy, spice-crusted skin, all lacquered with sweet, spicy, tangy barbecue sauce, which takes on that wonderful sticky quality when it’s been glazed over the smoker or the coals. It just doesn’t get better than that for me. We make barbecue chicken all summer long on our charcoal grill. And I’ve even been known to oven roast some barbecue chicken in the winter, when it’s too cold to grill outside.
You can play around with barbecue chicken. There is an infinite number of ways to vary barbecue sauces and spice rubs. You can make this ethnic in any direction, you can add pureed fruit of any kind to the sauce, you could add alcohol or soda to the sauce, it really doesn’t matter. You are only limited by your imagination and culinary chops. I’ve certainly played around with it a fair amount over the years. But I always come back to the American classic version. That may just be my favorite. And this is honestly one of the best classic versions I’ve ever tasted. We come back to this one over and over. Over the weekend my sister and brother-in-law came for a lovely visit, and we made this for them. It was met with many compliments and second helpings.
Source: slightly adapted from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Cookbook
Note: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a New York restaurant with a cult following. We’ve eaten at the Harlem location several times, all with an hour plus wait. They released a cookbook and sometimes it’s just easier to make the stuff yourself.
8 chicken quarters (leg and thigh, breast and wing)
7 tbs All-Purpose Red Rub (recipe to follow)
2 cups Dinosaur Mutha Barbecue Sauce (recipe to follow)
Sprinkle the chicken with the rub and massage it in to make sure every inch of the chicken is covered. Use more than the stated amount if necessary. Let chicken rest in the refrigerator while you prep the grill.
Preheat your grill for medium-high heat. Oil the grill grate.
Arrange the chicken pieces skin side down. Do not touch for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, check the chicken to determine skin crispiness. If the chicken won’t raise from the grate easily, leave it alone for another 2-3 minutes. If the chicken will raise easily but the skin is still flabby, leave another 2-3 minutes. Check again, and leave another 2-3 minutes if skin still hasn’t crisped.
When skin is crispy, flip chicken pieces. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one chicken breast. When it reads 165 F they are cooked through.
When the meat thermometer registers 135 F, take the reserved barbecue sauce and baste the chicken pieces as they are, skin side up, then flip and baste the other side. Leave them as they are and close the grill lid. When the thermometer says 145 F, baste the chicken again as they are, then flip them and baste again. Leave them as they are and close the grill lid. When the thermometer reads 155 F, baste the chicken again as they are, then flip and baste again. Leave them and close the grill lid. When it registers 165 F, take them off, for they are done.
Let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes uncovered. Serve more barbecue sauce alongside at the table.
ALL-PURPOSE RED RUB:
1/2 cup sweet paprika
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup garlic powder
6 tbs onion powder
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbs black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with a whisk or your fingers. Store in a plastic or glass container. For long-term storage, place in the refrigerator.
Yields about 2 3/4 cups, so feel free to cut the recipe by half or even quarter it.
DINOSAUR MUTHA BARBECUE SAUCE:
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbs minced garlic
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 cups ketchup, preferably organic
1 cup water
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tbs liquid smoke
Drizzle olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions, green peppers, and jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add in everything else except the liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes, then add the liquid smoke, stir to combine, then let it cool. Buzz it down with an immersion blender if you need to have it smooth, like me. Store in a storage container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Yields 6 to 7 cups, so again, feel free to halve the recipe. This is a great all-purpose barbecue sauce that goes with anything. I take cooled leftovers, store it in a large Ziploc baggie, and freeze it. When I need a little sauce for something, I break off a chunk and microwave it until it’s thawed.