By John Golden
Because of technical issues with pressherald.com, we are publishing John Golden’s column here.
His first cookbook, Serious Barbecue, was an ambitious tome on the art of BBQ. His methods were somewhat different from his mentors down south—BBQ masters who were born into the genre rather than aspiring to it.
I’ve followed many of his recipes in the first book as well as a simpler version called BBQ 25, referring to the 25 most frequently, easily prepared recipes that most cooks attempt on the grill.
His new book, Charred & Scruffed, goes to the next dimension. Here is a work that has turned the art of backyard barbecuing upside down and inside out. The recipes and methods are so complicated that it takes multiple readings to understand it fully.
I’ve made a few of them but found that I altered the methods to suit my own capabilities and temperament to make barbecuing fun, not a chore. I would recommend that you get this book if only to glean some of the very sophisticated tastes that he outlines in his recipes, but take the methods with a grain of salt indeed.
I’ve included here an adaptation of his barbecued chicken called “Smoked Crack-Back Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Herbs de Provence Baste.” It’s still very complicated, but I’ve streamlined it a bit. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful dish.
The two main differences in this method are that you crack the backbone of the chicken, crushing it, and make holes in the back bone with a sharp knife. He feels all the smoke and flavors will permeate the chicken. I didn’t find anything appreciably different. I’ve omitted it here and you can too. But try it. It’s an experience.
Herewith is the somewhat shortened method for this dish.
Smoked Crack-Back Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Herbs de Provence Baste
Servings: 2 to 4
Very Basic Brine
¼ cup kosher salt
2 cups apple juice
10 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 tablespoons ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before using, chilling it in the refrigerator and adding ice cubes, if you like, to chill it down quickly. Do this a day in advance of needing the chicken because the chicken will need 24 hours of brining.
One 3 ½ pound organic chicken
Freshly ground sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garlic Salt, to taste (see Note)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Lemon-garlic herbs de Provence baste
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
10 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons grated garlic (use a microplane)
2 tablespoons grated onion (use a microplane)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup finely chopped carrots
¼ cup finely chopped celery
6 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Put the chicken into the chilled brine and refrigerate for 24 hours, making sure the chicken is completely submerged in the brine. Use either a large heavy plastic bag or large covered container.
Baste. Combine all the ingredients, except the white wine vinegar and lemon juice, in a saucepan and bring to the simmer. Remove from the heat. Allow to rest for 1 hour at least. This can be made a day in advance, but don’t add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice until needed (see recipe).
Chicken preparation. Remove the chicken from the brine when it’s done, cleaning off the residue but leave it wet. Sprinkle the chicken very generously all over with the salt, garlic salt, black pepper and cayenne, rubbing it in.
Note: Lang uses his 4 Seasons Blend as the seasoning salt. This is made by mixing together 1 cup kosher salt, 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons garlic salt and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Put this mixture into a spice grinder and grind until the consistency of sand. The easier method is nearly as good.
Meanwhile prepare a charcoal or gas grill that’s been preheated to 400 degrees. Add the smoking wood (soaked for 30 minutes) for either fire. Apple wood or maple works best; hickory is too intense.
Put a cast iron skillet directly over the grates and let the pan heat, covered, for 10 minutes as the smoke builds up in the chamber.
Brush the chicken all over with the baste and put the chicken, breast side up, into the hot cast-iron pan. Now add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice for future basting.
Cook the chicken in the covered grill for 10 minutes. (Lang doesn’t specify to cover the grill but I did, thinking that you want the smoke from the wood.)
Baste with the acid-enriched basting sauce and turn the chicken on its side and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. If your grill is getting too slow, remove the cover to regenerate the coals if the heat goes below 350 to 400 degrees. No need to do this with a gas grill.
Baste again and turn on its other side. Cover the grill and cook for 10 minutes. Turn breast side up, baste again and scatter the vegetables and herbs around it. Cook for another 20 minutes, covered, checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer; you want the meat to reach 160 degrees eventually.
½ cup white wine
1/1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
Lemon pepper, to taste
Add the white wine to the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or more, covered, or until the 160 degree- internal temperature is reached. Remove the chicken to a carving board to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the wine and pan juices to a medium saucepan and boil over medium heat on the stove until reduced to a glaze. Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced by half. Swirl in the butter, bit by bit, until the sauce thickens slightly. Pass the sauce through a fine strainer into a sauceboat. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Carve the chicken, sprinkle with some lemon pepper and serve the sauce over or on the side.