why we stay in on a Saturday night: maple and chipotle barbecue chicken thighs

Indy has some pretty amazing restaurants with a good handful of James Beard award nominees.  I'll probably never dine at most of them and that's okay.  When your husband travels as much as mine does, you have a very appreciative audience for home cooked meals.  Besides, currently there's a bit of a lull in our sports viewing with Purdue underperforming in basketball, the Pacers rolling and Duke playing at very random times.  What do sports have to do with dining?  Well, if there's no game we have to watch, we can actually watch a movie.  Movie viewing rarely happens at our house.  It's the sports and it's the ability to stay awake.  So the past two weekends we have watched three new films and now we can watch the Oscars and have a bit more skin in the game.  So if you're going to stay in and watch a movie, you might as well stay in and cook a good meal before the movie.  Saturday night was a winner.  Well, the dinner was a champion but the nominated movie mostly just made me upset.  Have you seen "Flight"?  So frustrating.  The main character can not get his ***t together and stop behaving very badly.  Kind of like how watching the character Michael Scott on The Office always made me a little crazy.  So, make the chicken dinner but choose a different movie.  Our favorite of our recent movie binge has been "Argo".  Awesome.  You know how it ends, but it's still crazy suspenseful.  Loved it.
*Writer's note:  since this post lingered in draft stage, "Argo"'s general awesomeness has been rewarded with an Oscar.

On to the recipe.  If you read regularly you know we eat a lot of chicken at my house and we do a lot of grilling.  The February/March issue of Fine Cooking had an intriguing feature on barbecuing using your broiler.  Since we had a nice coating of frozen sleet the other night, I actually broiled my buffalo chicken burger patty from Whole Foods and it was easy and delicious.  So I picked out a barbecued chicken recipe and Greg offered to grill it instead since by yesterday we were pretty thawed out.  The rub has brown sugar in it so I warned him not to burn the chicken (easy to do if you have sugar contacting flame).  He loved the coaching on his grilling technique.  Ha.  Of course he did not, but he took it under advisement and grilled the chicken on low and just brushed the barbecue sauce on after grilling and the chicken was some of the most flavorful, moist and tasty chicken we've ever cooked or eaten.  Really.  So good.  I made roasted asparagus with just olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and a nice salad with butter lettuce, watercress, tomatoes, radishes, avocado, feta, garlic, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, white wine vinegar and good olive oil.  The key to that salad is to toss it a bunch to get the avocado all worked through.  

Please don't toss this recipe aside (unless you are a vegetarian) because it uses the lowly dark meat chicken thigh.  You remove the skin from the bone-in thighs mainly because it will burn on the grill or under the broiler.  Then you just have very flavorful dark meat on bones which is more moist and tender than chicken breasts prepared without skin.  Dark meat is not evil.  It's just tasty.  Cooking Light has tons of chicken thigh recipes.  I've tried swapping out chicken breasts but it's never as good.  Trust me.  You can make the sauce up to a day ahead and just refrigerate it until using.  If you don't have 2-4 hours to let the rub work it's magic on the chicken, just leave the rubbed chicken out on your counter for 30 minutes.  Cook it thoroughly.  You'll be fine.

Oh yeah, one last note:  I use a jaccard to push the rub into the meat.  Mine has 48 little blades and really comes in handy when you are speeding up tenderizing and flavoring meat.  It also helps flatten meat for faster cooking time.  Click on the link for the Jaccard Supertendermatic 48-Blade Tenderizer.  You just have to own something named "supertendermatic".

Maple and Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
1/2 C ketchup (right, I never use it but here is the exception), try a low sugar option
1/3 C pure maple syrup (no imitation syrups, ick)
2 T cider vinegar
1 T minced chipotle chile with adobo sauce (pretty sure mine was at least 2 T)
1 T lower sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt 

For the Chicken
3 lb. bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 8 good size thighs)
1 T sweet smoked paprika
1 T packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Make the sauce:  in a saucepan whisk together the ketchup, maple syrup, vinegar, chipotles, Worcestershire, dry mustard, onion powder and garlic salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce to low heat to simmer for about 15 minutes to blend flavors (watch it, it's thick and you don't want it reduced to nothing).  Set aside.  Can be made up to a day ahead and kept refrigerated.

Make the chicken:  in a small bowl whisk together the paprika, brown sugar, garlic salt, onion powder, chile powder and ground pepper.  Rub the chicken thighs with the mixture and cut-in with a jaccard tenderizer if you have one.  If not, no worries.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours.  Bring to room temperature before grilling or broiling.

To grill:  preheat your grill.  Reduce heat to low and grill chicken about 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through (internal temperature should be 165 degrees).  Warm up barbecue sauce and brush grilled thighs when done.  Remove from grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving.   

To broil:  position rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat on high.  Line the top rack of a broiler pan with foil and slit/puncture the foil at the openings to allow the fat to drain (or you might just get a little too smoky under the broiler).  Arrange chicken pieces skin side down (well, where there was the skin) and broil for 5 minutes.  Flip the chicken and broil until chicken is barely pink inside, or about another 4-5 minutes.  Brush with some of the sauce and broil until sauce begins to caramelize, or about 1-2 minutes.  Watch it so it does not burn.  Chicken should be 165 degrees.  Let rest 10 minutes before serving.  


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