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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pick One. Eat Five.

I was never a good strawberry picker. Whether dispatched to forage the family farm for wild strawberries or carted away to crawl around endless rows of ankle high berries through dusty U-Pick strawberry fields, I was that kid. You know the one? The grazer. The kid who ate everything. Pick one. Eat five. That was my game. Full belly. Empty baskets. Small hauls.

Not much has changed, really. Well, not that much. Nowadays, I don't pick a lot of strawberries.
When they're in season, I'll stop by the farmers market and nab a pint on my way to work. Like clockwork, they're gone before I get to work. Morning snacks. Stained fingers. Stained lips. Hulls on my shirt. Empty baskets. Happy country boy.

Last week, I changed things up a bit and stopped by the market after work. Game changer. Armed with full baskets of Henry County strawberries, I finally (and coyly) shared a few strawberries with Michael.

So, here's the deal. With strawberry season just getting under way, there will be plenty of time for shortcakes, ice creams, macerated sauces, and salads. With that in mind. I took my drive-by stash down an unexpected detour.

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken with Fresh Strawberry-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce.
Simple and fun.

Mise en Place.
Barbecue Sauce.
After hulling and chopping 2 cups of Henry County strawberries, I tumbled them into a food processor before adding 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 minced shallot, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup Woodford County Country Rock sorghum, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup Makers Mark bourbon, salt, and cracked black pepper. I pureed the mix, strained it into a sauce pan, simmered the seedless sauce for 35 minutes, and pulled it from the heat to cool.

So, I really didn't want to get all fiddly with turning several pieces of chicken around the grill, so I spatchcocked (butterflied) a whole Marksbury Farm chicken. Grilling or roasting a whole spatchcocked chicken allows it to cook evenly and more quickly.  Using kitchen shears, I removed the backbone from the neck to the tail, trimming some excess fat along the way. To help the chicken flatten out, I flipped the splayed chicken over and sliced the piece of cartilage covering the center of the breast bone (some folks remove the entire breastbone), flipped it back over and cracked the bird until it was evenly flattened. Instead of removing the wing tips (personal favorite), I tucked them under the breast before seasoning the chicken with smoked salt and cracked black pepper. With the cock spatched, I set it aside.

I stacked a heaping pile of charcoal into the center of the grill, lit it up, and let it rip. When the coals were ashen and ready to go, I scooped them to one side of the grill to allow for two heat sources. After tossing soaked hickory chips onto the glowing embers, I nestled the chicken onto the cooler side of the grill, closed the lid, and let the chicken cook for 30-35 minutes, turning and flipping it every 10 minutes or so.  When the internal temperature reached 165 degrees and the juices ran clear, I brushed the chicken with the strawberry-bourbon barbecue sauce and slid it over to the hot side of the grill. As the heat caramelized the meat, I turned, basted, moved, and babysat the chicken until it was burnished and lacquered with bits of char before removing it from the grill to rest.

Messy business. Held together by the candied sticky skin,  the tender juicy meat slipped off the bones with whispering ease. Pull. Swipe. Suck. Repeat. Finger food. Funny, while fortified with sorghum and brown sugar, the sauce wasn't achingly sweet. The bright sweet acidity of the strawberries balanced the mellowed caramel/vanilla undertones of the bourbon, the slight anise hints of the wilted basil, and the dark smoky sweetness of the Kentucky sorghum. Fruity. Salty. Sweet. Sensational.

Kentucky barbecue
with a strawberry twist.

Fire up the grill
and pass the bourbon.

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