When it comes to pot-luck meals, I always find myself volunteering for what seems to be the most difficult option – the main dish. If you ask me – everybody else can mess around with appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. Truth be told, all of the aforementioned items usually involve more ingredients (and costs) than the main dish. Think about it – a perfectly grilled beef tenderloin probably comes in at a third of the cost of a fancy homemade mac and cheese – and with nearly half the effort. When Thanksgiving rolls around – I’ll volunteer for the Turkey. Christmas? Put me on the Standing Rib Roast. You guys catch my drift.
The other night, my wife and I ventured over to join some friends for a group dinner. Since all of us have kiddos keeping us busy, we all decided to pitch in. Seeing as though it was the perfect fall day, I relished the opportunity to stand beside my smoker, cold beer in hand. So, I took it upon myself to volunteer for the main dish – cleverly so – by preparing smoked chicken for the group. I even surprised myself by finding whole chickens on sale for $0.50 a pound. I guess not everything in Nashville is so expensive these days.
I picked up three chickens and immediately began breaking them down. Cutting out the back bones, removing the innards, and also carefully trimming away the breast and rib meat to leave neatly trimmed halves. Of course, I didn’t waste all those good parts – as I allowed them to pull double duty by roasting off the bones and creating a rich chicken stock to holler at another day. For the birds, a bit of salt and pepper on both sides, and it was time to hit the smoker – 275 degrees for 75 minutes.
The real showstopper though – was the herb vinaigrette of sorts that I carefully languished all over the cut and cooked birds. Inspired by chef Jonathan Waxman’s famous JW Chicken, I took it upon myself to make the most of what I had in my kitchen to whip up a topping for the triumvirate of chickens. It made all the difference between good smoked chicken – and perfection.
And the best part? This dish served six hungry folks – boasting plenty of leftovers – all in for less than $10 bucks. Not to mention that quart of homemade chicken stock.
Working smarter – not harder.
Perfect Smoked Chicken
1 whole chicken, cut in half, backbone, innards, rib, and breastbone removed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
Soaked hardwood chips, for smoking
1 clove garlic, minced
1 anchovy filet, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh-cracked pepper
2 Tbsp. finely diced red onion
1 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Wash and rinse chickens after butchering, pat dry. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Place chickens on a pre-heated smoker using lump charcoal and soaked wooden chips. Smoke chicken over indirect heat at 275 degrees F for 75 minutes, or until firm to the touch and skin is crispy. Remove chicken halves, cover with foil and rest at least 15 minutes, up to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, muddle together the first three ingredients for the vinaigrette using a mortar and pestle. Toss together the remaining ingredients until everything just comes together. Check seasoning – adding more salt or lemon juice as necessary.
- Cut chicken breasts from thighs, and cut breasts in half. Spoon vinaigrette over chicken. Serve.