Starting hardwood lump charcoal without my beloved Stump Chunks is not an easy task, especially when the air is dripping with humidity. It’s worth the effort though, in my opinion, as I cannot stand the residual chemical flavor lighter fluid leaves on my meats and vegetables, especially where slow smoking is concerned. So, knowing the energy required just to get the coals going, I pile up my offset smoker with several meals worth of ingredients to use throughout the week. It’s not a bad trade off really. A little sweat, a little patience, and then I have a variety of deliciously smoky options for several days.
This past Saturday I did just that. It wasn’t particularly hot out, but the air was as thick as the bayous back home, and I was man sweating before I even got the coals lit. Fortunately, I enjoy the challenge of getting a flame going without chemicals, and since we have a functioning slider door now, I was able to breeze back into the a/c to cool off often enough. Plus, I was only smoking chicken thighs, duck breast, and veggies this round so the cook time was just four hours anyway. Still, high humidity is my least favorite weather to grill in. The rest of the week though, meals were ready in a flash and required little effort.
Needless to say, the next several recipes I’m about to post are all slow smoked, but grilling is just as tasty, if you don’t have a smoker. Honestly, all these dishes are oven friendly too. So, set aside a bit of time on the weekend to smoke or grill or however you roll and then sit back and relax as dinner takes care of itself the rest of the week.
For the first meal, I went full childhood traditional by combining both mine and Amy’s favorites. BBQ chicken, with my very simple homemade East Texas bbq sauce, corn-on-the-cob, and cabbage slaw. With a mouthful of chicken, eyes closed, and a sloppy grin on her face, Amy announced, “This taste just like the chicken I ate as a kid at my Dad’s company picnics!” Fully swept up in her memories she shared, “I remember all these smokers packed with rows and rows of chicken, and I just couldn’t wait to eat.” For me, there is no better compliment for my food, as I use cooking to feel a connection to my family and culture, that, as you know, I have no other means to otherwise. So, if tasting my food invokes pleasant memories, then I know I must be doing something right. And, note to self: hickory makes Amy happy.
Hickory Smoked BBQ Chicken Dinner
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 – 2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 – 2 tbsp buckwheat honey
1/2 – 1 cup BBQ sauce
2 – 4 ears of corn, husks left on
1 cup of shredded cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 tbsp minced sweet onion
2 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp mayo
1/2 tsp fine granulated raw sugar
splash of white vinegar, optional
generous amount of salt and black pepper
In a large mixing bowl with a lid, add the 2 cups of yogurt and mustard and stir until well combined. To that, add the chicken thighs and completely cover with the marinade. Cover and transfer to the fridge at least four hours, but preferably the evening before you plan to cook the chicken.
Also the evening before, add the corn to a large soup pot or brining bucket and completely submerge in water. Cover and set aside.
The following day, remove the chicken from the marinade and rinse the chicken clean. Discard the marinade. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and transfer to a clean surface. Evenly coat the chicken with the honey and then generously coat with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
Remove the corn from its water bath, discard the water, and set the corn aside on a clean surface.
Prepare coals for a smoker or grill. If using a smoker, set out two hickory blocks to add to the coals.
Once the coals are white hot, add the hickory block to the coals, if smoking, and place the chicken and corn in the barrel. Smoke 2 – 4 hours, basting the chicken with BBQ sauce at the one hour mark and on the hour afterwards, until the chicken reaches 165 degrees and the corn is tender. Add the additional hickory block to the coals, if needed.
Meanwhile, in a med mixing bowl with a lid add the 2 tbsp plain yogurt, mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Taste and adjust the dressing per your preference. Then stir in the shredded cabbage, carrot, and minced onion. Taste for seasoning once more, adding additional mayo or yoghurt as desired. Cover and transfer to the fridge and chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
Once cool enough to touch, remove the husk and silks from the corn. Drizzle with butter or honey, salt and pepper it, or dress it up or as little as you like. Serve immediately with the BBQ chicken and cabbage slaw.