Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grilled Smoky Mountain Chicken "Cheeseburger"

I grew up on the beaches of Florida and I have missed surfing for the past 10 years but I love living in East Tennessee.

The area is full of natural and historical attractions and the scenery of the Smoky Mountains still awe this flat-lander. A few weeks ago, Trevor and I got to take a two hour zip line tour above the trees in the Smokies.

Trevor heading away.

Another thing this area is famous for is its illegal bootlegging “home based distilleries and back yard breweries” during the prohibition era (and afterward ala Popcorn Sutton). Fortunately, laws are different now and breweries and distilleries can operate in the open and under regulation. There is a legacy of home brew in these parts.

So when McCormick's Grill Mates and Lawry's Flavor Forecast came out this year...

the flavor pairing that obviously caught my attention was...

Smoke & Craft Brews – Regional American beers are gutsy partners for the BBQ inspired smoke notes that can be cleverly infused through a range of smoky ingredients and techniques.

It's no secret, most mass produced American beers are watered down lagers that don't pack a flavor punch. But micro-brews have the freedom and audacity to “bring it”. I used local Downtown Grill & Brewery's White Mule Ale. It's medium body worked well with the bold spices and seasonings in Backyard Brew.

Did they say “smoky ingredients and techniques”?   Since I was grilling this chicken and not smoking it, I used 3 tricks to infuse that smoky flavor into a beer-cheese sauce. The beer-cheese sauce is so good on it's own you'll want to just use it as a dip for bread or sausage.

grilled smoky mountain chicken "cheeseburger", chicken sandwich

Grilled Smoky Mountain Chicken “Cheeseburger”
serves: 4

4 ea chicken thighs, boneless skinless
½ cup of your favorite pale ale craft brew
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 strips hickory smoked bacon
4 slices tomato (optional)
lettuce (optional)
4 onion rolls
1 cup smoky beer-cheese sauce (see recipe)

Beer Cheese Sauce ingredients
3 Tablespoons reserved bacon fat
¼ cup sweet onion, minced
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
½ cup of your favorite pale ale craft brew
½ teaspoon McCormick's Smoked Paprika
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon McCormick's White Pepper
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon roasted red jalapeno diced (substitute red bell pepper if you must but it's really not that hot)
¼ cup half and half
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix the Backyard Brew marinade, beer, vinegar, and olive oil according to package directions and marinate the chicken thighs for 4 hours.

Cook the bacon. Reserve 3 Tablespoons of the bacon fat. (Smoky trick #1)

Sear the red jalapeno until blackened and place in a Glad zip top bag for 5 minutes. Split in half lengthwise so it lays flat. Scrape off and discard most of the charred skin on the outside and the seeds on the inside. Finely dice the roasted pepper. (Smokey trick #2)

In a small sauce pan saute the onion in the bacon fat over medium heat until just starting to turn tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly until blended into a blond roux which should only take a few more minutes.

Add the smoked paprika (Smoky trick 3), white pepper, and salt. Whisk in the beer. It will look like your roux fell apart for a second. Don't panic and keep stirring for a minute until the consistency is smooth again.

Add the chicken stock and stir. Bring to a very low simmer. Mix in the cheese in small batches until melted.

Add the red pepper, half and half, and worcestershire sauce. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.

Remove chicken from the marinade and grill directly over medium high heat (400f) for 6 minutes a side or until it reaches an internal temperature of 170.

Toast the insides of your onion rolls.

Build each sandwich with a thigh, two pieces of bacon, ¼ cup of the beer-cheese sauce and lettuce & tomato if desired.
grilled smoky mountain chicken "cheeseburger", chicken sandwich

The grilled chicken was great on it's own. But the crisp bacon, rich sauce and the slightly acidic kiss from the tomato put this sandwich over the top.

grilled smoky mountain chicken "cheeseburger", chicken sandwich

Serve with your favorite craft brew, of course!

Standard Disclaimer:  I received the pictured Flavor Forecast kit free from McCormicks.  However, I just counted and I have over 30 McCormick's products in my spice cabinet for which I paid full retail price.


  1. Oh my goodness, look at that cheesy gooey sauce - heaven! I saw "Cheeseburger" in your post title and came running. You didn't disappoint - looks amazing!

  2. I almost (almost) want to go buy a grill. But I've owned every kind there is over the years and that's now in the past. I'm having too much fun on my stovetop. And speaking of hootch (I mean home-based distilleries, my uncle had one in his basement. He was a hight school principal. One summer day when I wss 16 my step-father let me have a shot of Uncle Red's moonshine. I've been in rehab ever since (or should be).

  3. That looks so good! And your food photos are really kick-ass.

  4. OMG! This is right up our alley! Love the beer cheese sauce on the chicken. Putting this on the lIst to try.

  5. You sure put a lot of work into thios sandwich but it looks and sounds well worth it. The sauce sounds amazing.

  6. That looks flippin' AMAZING! Is it lunchtime yet?;-)

  7. I really like McCormick's products and I must say this cheeseburger looks freaking AWESOME!

  8. P.S. I've always wanted to go zip lining! So fun.

  9. Holy cow, Chris.. I mean every time I think you can't out do yourself with a fantastic sauce.. you go and post something like this!! (did I say that on the last sauce post? lol)
    Excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my keyboard.....

  10. This looks and sounds incredible Chris. Everything about it and every ingredient sounds so delicious together. I've got to make time to give this a try.

  11. Man, this looks so great. The burger and recipe you have here is rockin'! Here's a dumb question - where do you get your chicken/what brand do you buby?

  12. Oh man, you are killing me with these pictures. We just ate lunch and now I'm hungry all over again. Gorgeous burger!

  13. Chris your chickenburger looks killer!
    But I sooo wanna go on that zip line... Looks like fun! :)

  14. A 2 hour zip line tour? I've never heard of such a thing - I suppose I should come out from under my rock! Sounds like a great experience. Your burgers look incredible! I'm in love with your cheese sauce.

  15. I have missed reading your mouthwatering delights, Chris! This was just the post for me to find as I hop back into the blogosphere. Beer cheese sauce sounds like it would be a hit around here. Beautiful pictures as always - love the zip line shot. Hope you're having a good summer!

  16. Grilled peppers always look so sexy. Did I say that out loud?

  17. What a gorgeous sandwich, Chris! I have never made beer cheese looks amazing!

    Kim in MD

  18. Holy shiznits! That beer sauce is calling my name! I would probably just drink it, it looks and sounds THAT good. And thanks for the smoky tricks :) You never cease to amaze me.

    And I've always wanted to go ziplining! We went to Gatlinburg last year and I really wish we had done it, looks like so much fun.

  19. you really are the grill master! this looks amazing, i especially love the beer cheese sauce, YUM!

  20. Great cook and pics as always!

  21. I can't believe you went zip lining. That is way more impressive than me getting in a helicopter. WAY.

  22. you had me at "cheese sauce" . Looks yummy!

  23. That is one nice looking chicken burger and that beer cheese sauce sounds so good!

  24. WOW, that sandwich is pure heaven. You are a grill master. Thanks for the recipe.

  25. Chris, that burger would be on time right now!!! I am a huge fan of the McCormick grill seasonings and such. I'm hoping once the weather cools a bit and some of tourist leave town to go zip lining with the A.J. and the girls.

  26. Hmmm this recipe looks so delicious and nice and i think that fits perfect with my taste and in my opinion is a very easy recipe, so i think i will try it. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Drooooooooool - looks so good. I need a napkin and I'm not even eating it.

    Well done Chris. Well done.

  28. Your pictures are looking awesome Chris! I am so hungry now.


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