Smoky Cherry BBQ Chicken
6-8
servings
Main
Course
Print Recipe
Ingredients
Directions
BBQ Sauce
½ c
dried cherries
Jump
½ c
rye
Jump
6 lg
tomatoes, quartered
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3 md
Vidalia onions, peeled and quartered
Jump
8 tsp
white vinegar
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½ lb
pecanwood or maple wood chips
Jump
12 tbsp
maple syrup
Jump
2 tsp
cinnamon
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2 tsp
cumin
Jump
Chicken
3-4 lb
whole chicken
Jump
1
bay leaf
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¼ c
kosher salt
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1 tbsp
peppercorn, crushed
Jump
1 pt
smoky cherry BBQ sauce
Jump

Fair warning: This recipe requires patience. There are many ways to shortcut it, but I’ve built in a trick to enjoy it thoroughly (read: shots). I used Consider Bardwell maple syrup from our local McCarren Park farmers’ market, but any brand will do. Depending on whether you will be eating right away or letting this dish mellow on low heat, you can pull the meat into large chunks for more of a bite or fine for a juicier chomp. Enjoy on squishy potato rolls or split-top buns.

My barbecue brethren wince when I mention liquid smoke. But if you lack outdoor space, start with a half teaspoon at a time and see how you feel about it. I also don’t start a smoker for just one dish, so have a few projects in mind if you go that route. Smoked mushrooms and whole heads of cauliflower are great if you need a hearty chicken substitute.

Directions

BBQ Sauce
  1. The night before, soak the wood chips in a bucket full of water.
  2. In a plastic container, add the rye to the dried cherries. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to reconstitute.
  3. Drain the now-infused rye from the cherries and take the shot (or save for a cherry sazerac later!). Set aside.
  4. Start a chimney of coals for your grill or preheat your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the hot coals on one side of the grill to create a hot zone, leaving an indirect cool zone for your vegetables.
  5. Put the tomatoes and onions on a lipped sheet pan that fits into your grill or smoker.
  6. Drain the wood chips and place a handful over the hot coals. Smoke the vegetables for 40-45 minutes. Add another handful of wood chips to the coals if you notice the smoke dying down after 20 minutes.
  7. Once the tomato and onion have a smoky blush, add them to a stock pot with the vinegar, cherries, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Smash the tomatoes to make them release their juice. Reduce the sauce for at least an hour.
  8. Let the sauce completely cool off the heat before blending smooth with an immersion blender or food processor.
  9. The pale red sauce can be ready to eat immediately. But if you have a slow cooker and can continue to cook it overnight on low, it will mature into a dark red, rib-sticking sauce.
  10. Store in a clean, sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Chicken
  1. Place the chicken in a stockpot or large Dutch oven. Completely cover it with water. Add the salt and bay leaf.
  2. Bring the pot to a boil on high heat. Cover the chicken and bring it down to medium heat to simmer.
  3. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is fork-tender. Remove the chicken to a lipped cutting board or sheet pan to cool. Strain the broth and reserve half a cup. Save the rest for another dish, like soup or rice.
  4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones into bite-sized chunks. Toss the shredded chicken with the broth and BBQ sauce in an oven-proof dish. Cover with foil and hold in a 200°F oven until ready to serve.

Jenn de la Vega

Jenn de la Vega is TASTE's Cook In Residence and the writer behind the blog Randwiches.

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