Sunday, January 29, 2012

Firebird Chicken aka The Chicken From Hell

Holy smokes, this was good chicken!

It was smoked with hickory and cherry wood then glazed with a spicy habanero citrus glaze that lights up your mouth with flavor.

I'd like to claim credit but this one comes straight from Chef Bryan Dooley.  Bryan grew up on his grandparent's horse farm in Illinois, helping to gather hickory wood for smoking and watching his grandmother make her family recipe for BBQ sauce.  After training at the Culinary Institute of America in NYC and 13 years of experience at the Fairmont Resort in Scottsdale, Bryan decided to open his own restaurant.  

The result was Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue in Cave Creek, Arizona (near Phoenix).  The place was designed with the feel of the "old cowboy west".  They smoke with pecan wood and serve the BBQ classics such as pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken, and pork.  Their sides include things like olive slaw, baked potato salad, and "six pack" cowboy beans.  Bryan's even has vegetarian options like the "Romain Ribs" and a pulled squash sandwich.  Yes, pulled squash.  I read about it on a Phoenix food blog and they liked it.  

I might have a business trip to Phoenix this year and I definitely have Bryan's place on my itinerary when that happens.  In the mean time, I made Bryan's Firebird chicken at home.  (If you can't bring Mohammed to the mountain......)

Photo of Firebird Chicken at Bryan's Black Mountain BBQ by Lauren Gilger
My Firebird Chicken - Not as saucy and no fiery habanero rings.

Firebird Chicken (aka The Chicken From Hell)
Source:  slightly adapted from Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue - Cave Creek, AZ

  • 2 chickens, split into halves*
  • 1 ounce BBQ rub*
For the Firebird sauce
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 cup honey (orange blossom if available)
  • zest from half an orange
  • juice from an orange 
  • 2 habanero chiles, seeded and finely diced*
  • 1/2 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced 
For garnish
  • 4 green onion, thinly sliced on a sharp bias
  • 2 habanero, thinly sliced into rings (Optional...probably not advisable) 
  • 8 slices Texas Toast
  1. Preheat your smoker or charcoal grill to 250f set up for indirect heat.  I used my Big Green Egg with 3 chunks of cherry wood and 2 chunks of hickory buried in coal.  Plate setter in legs up, drip pan on top.
  2. Season the bird halves with the rub.  Don't forget to season the backside (formerly it's "inside"), in fact, I season it extra heavy.  People aren't going to eat the rib cage anyway so you can't over season it and it helps impart flavor into the meat as it cooks. 
  3. Smoke the chickens skin side up for about 3-4 hours until they hit internal temps of 160-165f in the breast and 175f in the thigh. 
  4. Mix all of the sauce ingredients into a small sauce pan, bring to a simmer and then simmer for 10 minutes*.
  5. Glaze the chicken halves while they rest for 10 minutes*.  You have to let them rest.  They've been cooking for 3 hours and are tired!    
  6. Serve each half on two slices of bread*.  Garnish with green onion and habanero rings (if you dare).  Ladle remaining sauce over chicken.
  • We used 4.5 lb fryers (remember when fryers were 3.5 lbs?).   You can ask your butcher to cut them in half for you, but it's easy enough with a large sharp knife.  Also, I brined my chickens for 2 hours.
  • I used Albukirky Seasonings rub and sauce for this one, sticking with the Southwest theme.  (Kirk is a fellow Egger.)
  • We have a moderate heat tolerance and two chiles was just the right heat. If you like hotter, toss in another and/or don't deseed them.
  • Next time I might saute the ginger for a minute or two first.
  • Next time I would glaze the chicken while still in the cooker when the internal breast temps hit 150-155f.  
  • A "half chicken" is just way too big of a portion for us.  We do quarter chicken portions and I'm never left hungry.  I also skipped the Texas toast, mainly because we forgot to get some.
Hard to believe that just 5 ingredients can make such a powerful sauce.

It would also work on spatchcocked chickens but halves are what the recipe calls for.  Do whichever you  prefer.

Before the glaze - they smell so good already.

Liberally apply the sauce, don't forget to get up under the wings too.

Glazed and amazed....

We served ours with Robyn "GrillGrrrl" Lindars' Chipotle Cilantro Coleslaw and Texas Ranchero beans for an excellent meal.  The tender smoked chicken is emphasized, not covered up by the bold sauce, it's a nice balance.