How do you like your chicken? Battered and fried is the most popular chicken nationwide, notwithstanding the ubiquitous Costco, Sam’s Club and supermarket rotisserie chickens.
In our Chow Town barbecue joints we can get chicken smoked or grilled, or smoked and deep-fried — it’s all good.
Cooking style plus seasonings give each chicken dish a unique signature. Rubs, marinades, mops and finishing sauce options are many and varied. In one respect, however, Chow Town is in a chicken condiment rut. Our choices are among a variety of sweet or sour tomato base sauces and precious few vinegar base sauces.
We are missing out on some chicken condiments that Americans in other parts of the country take for granted. We can talk upstate New York spiedini and Washington D.C. mumbo wings another day. Today I’m thinking white-sauced chicken.
The beautiful snow cover on our town over the past couple of weeks, combined with canceling a barbecue road trip to Birmingham, Decatur and Huntsville, has me thinking white-sauced chicken. It’s a North Alabama staple that I wish we could get in Chow Town barbecue joints.
However, we needn’t wait until someone introduces it here, if ever. It’s easy and worth the effort to cook it at home. Several brands of white barbecue sauce are available locally and online. There are also easy white sauce recipes you can make at home with mayo, vinegar, pepper, salt and other seasonings which vary by recipe.
Here’s how I do it. Purchase one to two bone-in, skin-on thighs per serving. I like Smart Chicken when I can afford it; otherwise I get the cheapest available. Rinse thighs under cold water. Place in a resealable plastic bag. Pour one cup of white sauce in the bag, seal it and massage the thighs to thoroughly coat them. Refrigerate overnight.
Remove the thighs to a plate or pan, discard the bag and sauce. Sprinkle both sides of the thighs with Big Bob Gibson’s rub or your favorite rub. Grill thighs over direct charcoal or gas fire, turning every five to six minutes with long-handle tongs. After 15 to 20 minutes, set thighs in the cool zone opposite the fire, drop a handful of applewood chips on the fire, cover the grill and let the thighs smoke for 5 to 10 minutes.
Alternative if you don’t want to cook outdoors: fry the overnight-marinated and rubbed thighs in a cast iron skillet with 3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil, use with a splatter cover to minimize mess. Cook until done, 25 to 30 minutes, turning every 5 to 6 minutes.
Serve the thighs topped with fresh white barbecue sauce.
White barbecue sauce is also an excellent complement to fish and seafood. Try some and surprise yourself with how much you’ll like it.
My favorites are Big Bob Gibson’s, Brooks House of Barbecue (available online), K and Lillie’s Q Ivory (available online.) Another old favorite, Cotton Fields out of Madison, Ala., is no longer available. Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kan., has Big Bob Gibson’s sauce. The Kansas City BBQ Store in Olathe also has Big Bob Gibson’s, plus a local favorite, K, which is also available at Hy-Vee.
Leghorn chickens dominate today’s commercial poultry meat and egg industry. Alabama folk artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth captured the essence of Leghorn (pronounced “Leggern”) chickens with his classic rooster and hen paintings.
Plan a barbecue road trip to North Alabama when the weather is back to normal and enjoy some barbecue chicken like none other.
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”