Thursday, August 5, 2010

Out Of This World BBQ

Good evening everyone! The week is starting to wind down - once again, doesn't it seem like it was just Monday? Where is the time going? Tonight, as usual, was my night to take back the kitchen. Rather than taking on another daunting recipe that would require a lot of cooking time (looking at you - French onion soup) I decided to keep things fairly straightforward tonight and make something simpler. Tonight's recipe - oven barbecued chicken looked to be just that. What intrigued me most about this recipe, however, was the interesting combination of ingredients to make the BBQ sauce. I started off doubtful - but by the end of the night, I've sworn off all other BBQ sauces. More on that later - first, let's get cooking.

The Recipe: Sweet and Tangy Oven-Barbecued Chicken
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

1 Cup Ketchup
3 Tablespoons Molasses*
3 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Grated Onion **
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 - 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

Side Dish:
4 Ears Sweet Corn

As always, measure everything before you begin
This was my first encounter with cider vinegar - it smells quite nice! 

* Choose a molasses that is 'mild' or 'original' in style over a darker molasses. The darker versions are more bitter and don't have the flavoring you're looking for in BBQ sauce.

** The recipe calls for you to grate a fresh onion using the fine teeth of a cheese or box grater. OR you can simply by the ready to go 'onion flakes' from Tone's and skip the extra process (and the tears). I opted for Tone's.

If you are making sweet corn alongside of this dish, place a large pot of water on high heat and begin to bring to a boil.

Adjust your oven rack so it is 5 inches below the heating element of your oven. Next preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (Note - first move the rack THEN preheat the oven. Don't accidently bake your hair!)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, onion, worcestershire sauce, mustard, maple syrup, chile powder and cayenne pepper together. Stir until everything is well blended then set aside.

Whisk, whisk, whisk 

If you're like me, you're reading this combination and asking yourself "Really?" I have never seen a BBQ sauce recipe call for maple syrup, dijon mustard or cider vinegar before and was a little concerned that the resulting sauce was going to be far too sweet for my taste. Clearly, the chili powder and cayenne pepper were meant to counter this but I still had my doubts. Trust me when I say - put those doubts aside. This is the best BBQ sauce you have ever tasted. If you don't believe me, stick you finger in the bowl (when no one is looking!) and give it a taste. It's great right now - it gets better later.

Pat your chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Next, place a 12 inch, oven safe skillet on high heat and add your vegetable oil. Allow the oil to warm until you start to see the faint trails of smoke rising from the pan. Once smoking, place the chicken in the pan, smooth side down and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. After 2 to 3 minutes, the chicken should have a nice golden brown coloring. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and cook the other side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. The goal here is to give the chicken a good, crisp, outer skin before cooking. If you didn't do this step - you would end up with a sloppy, flabbier outer edge.

Nice and golden

Now, nowhere in the recipe does it mention using a splatter screen over the skillet - but you're going to want to use one. The (molten hot) oil sprays from the pan and makes it nearly impossible to approach the pan otherwise. Keep things simple (and burn free) and place you splatter screen over the skillet while you cook.

Once both sides are golden brown, remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside on a plate. If there is a lot of excess oil and fat still in the skillet, wipe it clean before moving on to the next step. Remove the skillet from the heat and slowly pour in your BBQ sauce. Return the skillet to medium heat and stir the sauce constantly until it begins to thicken. This should take about 4 minutes. The easiest indicator of a thick BBQ sauce is to run your spoon or spatula through the sauce. If the trail of the spatula remains behind for 1 to 2 seconds, your sauce is nice and thick. Remember when I said that the sauce gets better? Taste it now. That's right, now just try to wipe that smile off your face. You can't IT'S JUST THAT GOOD!

Remove the skillet from the heat again and place the chicken breasts amongst the BBQ sauce. Rotate the breasts a few times until both are completely covered. With the smooth side of the breast up, spoon the excess sauce in the pan on top of the breasts until you have a nice thick covering.

The chicken breasts are under there...somewhere
Place your skillet into the oven and cook for about 8 to 12 minutes or until the temperature reaches 130 degrees at the thickest part of the breast. For me, this took about 10 minutes. Once the chicken is at 130 degrees flip your oven over to broil and allow 5 minutes for the heating element to get good and hot. Place the skillet back in the oven and cook for another 3 to 8 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken breasts reach 160 to 165 degrees.

If you're cooking the corn, throw the little yellow buggers into the boiling water now.

The last broiling step actually has a very interesting effect on the whole dish. You could simply cook the chicken in the oven until it reaches 160 degrees and end up with a nice, crunchy on the outside - juicy on the inside BBQ chicken. Broiling, however, adds one last boost to the dish. The high heat causes that extra coating of BBQ sauce you spooned onto the chicken to turn into a glaze. This glaze bakes into the surface of the chicken, essentially infusing a rich BBQ flavor into the chicken breast itself.

Once your chicken reaches the magical 160+ degree mark you're ready to serve. Whisk the remaining sauce in the skillet and pour into a small dish to serve alongside the chicken. Pluck your corn from the water and enjoy!

The Results:




The final result of this recipe is simply delicious. The chicken was cooked to perfection. A light crispy crust on the outside and a fantastically juicy and tender interior was accented by an absolutely epic BBQ flavor. The sauce was neither too sweet, nor too hot - but rather a blending of the two. In the end, your mouth is greeted with a rich, almost smoky flavor that has just a small bite - courtesy of Mr. Cayenne Pepper no doubt. This is, hands down, the best BBQ chicken I have ever had. (Sorry mom!)

The only downside to tonight's meal was the sweet corn. I fear we may be nearing the end of sweet corn season (nooooooo!) Our corn tonight was old and gummy and lacked any flavor whatsoever. Alas, sweet corn season is a brief, but beautiful event. It's hard to think that it is already drawing to a close...

All mourning for the death of summer aside - there you have it! Simple to make and amazing to enjoy. Here's hoping you give this fantastic BBQ chicken recipe a shot in the near future. Needless to say, we'll be returning to this dish in the not so distant future.

That's all we have for you this week. Thank you all, once again, for stopping by every night and sharing in our culinary adventures. We're going to be off all weekend as we're traveling back home to finalize some wedding plans. (We're under a month away from the big day!) So, there will not be any posts until next Monday's ingredient list. Until Monday,


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