Got the blues for some chicken

May 27, 2017

Blue Q chicken, soaking in its sauce.

I love me some blueberries. I love me some chicken. I never thought about putting them together. At least, not until I purchased Deep Run Roots, the cookbook from Vivian Howard, chef at Chef and the Farmer and star of “A Chef’s Life” on Food TV.

I pause for an unsolicited endorsement. If you have a cookbook-loving cell in your body, buy this book. Not only is it filled with really cool recipes, the recipes are not those which require a pantry-full of exotic ingredients or a spice cabinet with stuff you can’t pronounce and y’mama ‘n ’em never heard of. She relies on a lot of salt, pepper and fresh herbs you can grow in your flower bed. Her recipes let the ingredients, time-honored ingredients any Southern cook knows, like pecans, tomatoes, sweet corn, greens (well, I won’t testify for the greens recipes, as I detest cooked greens in any shape, form or fashion) and grits, and uses them in different settings and combinations to create great new dishes.

Besides which, sista can WRITE. I took the cookbook to bed with me and read it cover to cover in three nights.

Anyway. Blueberries. She writes about how her father, a silent partner in the restaurant, called her up one day to tell her he’d bought some blueberries at a good price, and thought she might could use them. Turned out it was 500 pounds of blueberries. Which, of course, have to be used in a finite amount of time. So she created blueberry barbecue sauce, which she calls Blue-Q.

The sauce recipe is this:

  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • a 3-inch chunk of cinnamon stick
  • a bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I didn’t think that sounded like enough, so I used 1/2)

You fo-pro the berries first, just enough to get some juice flowing. Dump them in a pan, add everything else, and simmer over medium low heat for about an hour. Fish out the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick, and put it in the blender; take the little thingy out of the lid and cover the top with a dish towel to allow the steam to escape if you don’t cool it a bit first.

Blend thoroughly. Then strain the resulting puree/liquid back into the rinsed pot, and simmer until it’s reduced and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Note: I may have reduced too far, or simmered a bit much on the front end; mine gelled when it cooled. Not that that hurts anything; you scoop some out in a bowl to use, nuke it, and stir it up, and it’s liquid enough to paint on.

This makes close to a quart, and according to Vivian, it keeps a good while, covered in the fridge.

Note the second: Your kitchen will be fragrant.

I did my chicken in the oven, because I just wasn’t enthusiastic enough to fire up the grill. She recommends spatchcocking the bird (cutting out the backbone and flattening it), but I went ahead and cut mine up into quarters for ease of handling. Salt and pepper it well, and plunk it in a roasting pan on a rack, skin side down. Bake it for 10-15 minutes at 350, then start basting it every 10 minutes or so; paint it liberally with the sauce. (A foil-lined roasting pan is a really Good Thing in these circumstances, unless you’re just fond of scrubbing.)

After about 40 minutes, grab some tongs and turn the chicken over. Commence basting the other side. Cook another 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the thigh reads 165F. Remove the chicken to a platter, and douse it down liberally with a final, heavy, coat of sauce; cover it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.

My kids said this was some of the best chicken I’d ever cooked. I thought it was pretty primo, myownself. And I think that sauce will just rock on some pork chops, which I hope to attempt this weekend. I also plan to get out to the pick-your-own blueberry place and get a gallon or two of ’em, and can some of this sauce; I think it’ll be a great addition to Christmas gift baskets.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em do this. You’ll thank me. It makes a really cool addition to your summer barbecuing repertoire.



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