Even in George Washington’s time, Southerners enjoyed the tradition of the barbecue as a form of social gathering. Historians believe 16th century Native Americans may have initially introduced barbecuing to British colonists. Barbecuing is practically a year-round sport now. Some cooks focus on grilling; others say it’s all about the barbecue pits and smoke. Everyone has a preference for a barbecue style and plenty of strong opinions on how to go about it. Few foods inspire loyalties and rivalries like barbecue.
Southern barbecue has long been a venue for South Carolina political entertaining and rallies. According to Charleston author Robert Moss, (Barbecue: the History of an American Institution), Columbia played an important role in the launch of this country’s commercial barbecue in the 1920’s. He says S. E. Perry began selling “Bucket Barbecue” during Fourth of July and Labor Day Parades at 60 cents a pound and 30 cents for hash. Prior to that, Columbians would bring a bucket from home and fill it with meat at the barbecue stands. Lamb and mutton were almost as popular as pork.
Chicken has become a top-choice of protein for the grill! If you enjoy spicy, lively flavor combinations, look to the East for inspiration. The chicken dish in this post is based on a balanced blend of addictive Asian seasonings that are easily found in your supermarket.
Versatile chicken thigh meat stays moist on the grill, is economical and a good source of zinc, selenium and B vitamins. The thighs are marinated in yogurt and South Asian spices, then grilled and brushed with an addictive glaze of flavorful sweet-heat. The chili garlic condiment is sold in 8-ounce plastic bottles decorated with a rooster and green lid. The chicken in the photo is paired with Golden Rice, Cucumber Raita and grilled naan (leavened flatbread). Available at local markets, naan can be warmed over a hot grill and brushed with melted butter or olive oil.
Green cardamom pods add a warm spicy-sweet flavor and aroma to the rice dish. Purchase them at gourmet shops or Indian markets. Skewered, grilled whole okra is called for in this recipe, but it can also be cooked in a foil package over the fire for 15 minutes. Sometime, I like to scatter crispy fried okra pieces over the top of the rice for a special flavor and texture contrast.
GRILLED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH SWEET-HOT CHILI GLAZE
1/2 rounded cup plain Greek yogurt
1 rounded teaspoon lime zest
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
2 large garlic, finely minced almost to a paste
1 tablespoon finely minced gingerroot
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground dried red chilies
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 to 10 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4-1/2 pounds), rinsed, patted dry
1/3 cup Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce
4 tablespoons honey, or to taste
fresh mined cilantro leaves
Combine yogurt, zest, 3 tablespoons lime juice, garlic, gingerroot, cumin, turmeric, ground chilies and salt in a large plastic food storage bag. Add chicken thighs; coat well with the mixture. Seal bag and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. In a small bowl, combine chili garlic sauce, honey and remaining tablespoon lime juice. Divide between 2 small bowls; set aside. Set up your outdoor grill. Wipe excess marinade from chicken; coat lightly with cooking spray. Place chicken, skin side down, over direct heat. Cook about 10 minutes then turn chicken. Brush with the chili glaze in one of the bowls. Cook 10 to 15 minutes more or until skin is crispy and slightly caramelized, the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove to a platter; garnish with cilantro. Makes 4 to 5 servings.
Note: Chicken quarters (thighs and drumsticks) are also tasty prepared this way.
GOLDEN RICE WITH OKRA
1 tablespoon each olive oil and unsalted butter
1 small chopped onion
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (or big pinch of crushed saffron threads, if available)
3 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and white pepper
1-1/4 cups long grain rice
2 cups chicken broth or water
grilled okra on soaked short wooden skewers
2 minced green onion
Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook until nearly tender. Stir in turmeric, cardamom, salt and pepper. Add rice, stir mixture 30 seconds. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes. If tender yet still moist, remove cover and cook a couple of minutes until mixture is dry. Grill the okra, as directed. Cut in thin diagonal slices and toss with the rice. (You can make the rice one day ahead then grill the okra along with the chicken thighs the following day.) Makes 4 servings.
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in small dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch white pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate until serving time. Serve as a side dish or as a dip. Makes about 3 cups.
TOP PHOTO: From Columbia Metropolitan Magazine; photo: Jeff Amberg
BOTTOM PHOTO: Golden Rice with Okra, Copyright Susan Fuller Slack