Summer’s End – A Casual Backyard Barbecue

It’s September, and the summer heat has not faded. In the central valley of California, we are poised to break record highs for this time of year – well over 100 degrees. The experts are warning of a dangerous heat wave in the coming week. When it’s this hot, I don’t mind eating later in the day (like around sunset) and I sure don’t mind it if dinner can be cooked outdoors. Especially if the food doesn’t require a lot of attention, allowing the cook to retreat into an air-conditioned house if only briefly. This entire menu might have been cooked on the grill if it weren’t for one thing – the potatoes. For whatever reason, when grilling up beef or chicken, I get a hankering to round out the meal with either fried or roasted potatoes. It seems we’ve been eating our fair share of country fried potatoes or baked potatoes lately (must be all that outdoor grilling).  With tonight’s chicken, I decided to try a new potato recipe that is a cross between “roasted” and “baked”. But I’m getting ahead of myself here . . .

As part of our Labor Day Casual Dining, I’m trying two new recipes. The first is for barbecued chicken. The recipe is one I came across on Oh But I’m Hungry that first appeared in October 2014. (http://butimhungry.com/2014/10/17/bacon-bourbon-bbq-chicken-kebabs/)

Oh sure, we’ve all had barbecued chicken before. Bourbon Barbecue is nothing new. Neither is Bacon Barbecue. Putting the two together isn’t such a stretch of the imagination. So it’s not a matter of what but how the bacon-bourbon barbecue are merged that gives this recipe its interesting spin. While having all the flavor of marinated chicken, you create a raw bacon “paste” to slather over the chicken. The paste keeps your chicken moist while imparting a wonderful flavor unlike anything I’ve tasted before. There is no other way to describe the coating for the chicken – it’s a paste – thick and sticky and strangely fun. This is one of those wonderful recipes that invites you to play with your food – let it slip and slide around in your hands. So be sure to roll up your sleeves for this awesome chicken and prepare to have a little fun.

This would be a great recipe for a mid-week supper, except Hubby and I use a chimney and briquettes for barbecuing – adding roughly 25 to 30 minutes to any recipe. So although the chicken only takes about 20 minutes or so to cook, it’s about an hour from match to table.

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Back Yard Barbecue Menu:

Bacon Bourbon Barbecued Chicken Thighs

Smashed Loaded Baked Red Potatoes

Grilled Corn on the Cob

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Time Table:

Prepare corn and soak for 30 minutes. While corn is soaking, prepare chimney for grill and soak skewers for chicken. (If your corn soaks for longer than 30 minutes, that’s okay).

Preheat oven. While oven is heating, prepare potatoes for roast/baking. Pop potatoes into the oven to roast/bake and set a timer for 10 minutes. Light chimney and begin heating coals. Set timer for 20.

Once grill is ready, remove corn from water and begin grilling. Set timer for 10 minutes, then place chicken on grill. While chicken grills, check potatoes. If potatoes are ready, reduce oven to 300 degrees, finish potatoes and keep warm until ready to serve.

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DSC_0067-1024x680Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Chicken Thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
6 slices raw bacon, cut into small pieces
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
10 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water
2 cups Jim Bean Master Blend Barbecue Sauce
4 Oz Jim Bean (or favorite whisky)

Light the grill and heat to medium-high heat.

In a food processor, combine the kosher salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and bacon. Pulse until completely smooth. Add about a tablespoon of barbecue sauce to moisten the paste.

Put the chicken thigh pieces in a bowl. Plop the bacon paste on top, and begin rubbing it into and over the chicken. Once well-coated, thread the chicken thigh pieces onto skewers. You should be able to get about 4 chunks of chicken onto each skewer. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside until fire is ready.

Pour barbecue sauce into a bowl.  Add bourbon and whip until smooth and well blended. Set aside until ready to use.

Place the kabobs onto the grill and cook about 5 minutes per side with the grill shut and the smoke circulating the thighs.

When the chicken is nearly cooked through, brush with bourbon infused barbecue sauce and finish grilling, about 1 or 2 minutes per side.

Remove from grill, stack on a serving platter and serve with remaining barbecue sauce for dipping.

My second “new” recipe to try was an inspiration from fellow blogger, Laura Layne of Cooking from the Heart. She’s part of my blogger reads, and a great source of inspiration. (Here’s the link to her original recipe: http://cookingfromtheheart.net/2014/06/19/smashed-loaded-red-potatoes/) Laura’s recipe called for avocado, skipping the sour cream. And the preparation is slightly different, but if you check out her original posting, you can clearly see the similarities. I skipped the avocado and shredded cheese for Hubby’s sake – he’s not a big fan of either. And the sour cream – well who can resist a baked potato (smashed or otherwise) smothered beneath creamy sour cream? I sure as heck can’t . . .

image-1Smashed Loaded Baked Red Potatoes
10 small red potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
4 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
2 green onion sprigs, chopped
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash potatoes, pat dry and place on a rimmed baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut an “X” on the top of each potato. Rub potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I like mine heavy on the salt, light on the pepper).

Place potatoes into the oven and let roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon size of potatoes.

Split potatoes open with a fork and “smash” to create a nice little well in each potato. Place half of the potatoes into a rimmed serving dish. Spread some sour cream over the potatoes, sprinkle with half of the green onions, cheese (if using) and bacon bits. Top with remaining potatoes, more sour cream, green onions, cheese and bacon bits.

Return dish to oven and allow cheese to melt into potatoes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

There is nothing like sweet, fresh from the farm corn on the cob that has been grilled in its own husks. For best results, buy your corn no more than a day before grilling. If time and distance allows, get your corn straight from the farm early in the morning for grilling later that same day. Soaking the ears in water before grilling will prevent the husks from burning, while allowing the corn to soak in a little extra “moisture” for the best “steamed in their husks” corn you have ever had. About the only time I boil corn on the cob is in the winter, when the ears have been frozen. Fresh corn just screams “grill me!” The spicy butter is purely optional – this method of grilling corn is great all on its own. Skip the spicy butter and serve ears with a little creamy sweet butter and a pinch of salt.

GrilledCornCob_lgGrilled Corn on the Cob with Spicy Garlic Butter
8 ears corn, in husks
4 fresh limes, quartered
2 sticks butter, slightly softened
8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
¼ Habanero pepper, seeded
¼ bunch fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Build coals in grill using indirect cooking method. Trim tip and end of corn (making it easier to insert cob knobs to finished corn).

Remove thick outer husks from the corn, leaving several layers of the thinner, pale husks in tact. Peel back these layers of husks from the corn without removing them from the ears. Remove the silks, rinse ears and recover the corn with the husk. Secure husks with kitchen twine. Place ears of corn in a large pot of cold water. Let soak for at least 30 minutes. (The kernels will absorb some of the water, allowing them to steam in their husks when placed on the grill.)

While corn is soaking, make spicy butter. Combine butter, garlic, Habanero, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

When ready to grill, remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, directly over fire; close the cover and grill. Check and turn periodically. If husks begin to burn, transfer ears and continue to cook using an indirect method. Grill for about 20 to 30 minutes. Corn should be firm but tender when properly grilled.

When corn is cooked, unwrap and brush with the garlic butter. Sprinkle squeezed with lime and garnish with chopped chives.

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Happy Grilling Everyone!

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