Spicy chicken can mean different things to different people, and everyone has their own recipe – or at least their own opinion. Now I myself, being of a certain age, am a bit set in my ways. Oh yes, I may claim that I am open to trying new things. But the reality is that I very rarely do. And when I do, it is usually as some one else’s guest.
At my time of life, I do not like to experiment. But when the beautiful lady I was with (AKA Maureen) said that she didn’t like anything sweet in the marinade for the spicy chicken, I naturally took it to heart and abandoned any idea of putting in honey or date syrup. Instead I decided to go in the other direction and make it even more spicy. At least that was the plan.
Putting the BBQ together
I should explain, first off, that I spent more time putting the new barbecue together than I should have done. This was because of one mistake I made concerning the front and rear legs. I knew that I had to put the pulling handle on the right side and the wheels on the left. But I assumed that I could turn the drum either way. (And this, notwithstanding how many BBQs I have put together.)
So when I put the legs in and stood it the right away, I saw the holes for the hinged top in the front (relative to the way I had assembled it) instead of the back, where they were supposed to be! I also assumed that I could attach the wheels either way – as long as I put them on the outside of the legs. Well I was half right! The left and right wheels were interchangeable, but one side was definitely the inside and the other side definitely the outside.
The reason that this mattered was because after the axle goes in and is held in place on the other side by the hairgrip-like pin, one is supposed to put a snap-on cover over the wheel. But if the wheel is the wrong way round, then the cover doesn’t snap on properly.
Preparing the spicy chicken
So there I was up in Wendover (rhymes with “bend over”) near Aylesbury. The barbie was now – finally – fully assembled, but Maureen and I were starvin’ like Marvin, because I’d made such a dog’s dinner of a man’s job! Maybe I should have done the food prep before the DIY. But it’s no use crying over spilled milk. I should also explain, that Maureen had cooked a fantastic roast dinner the evening before and I – naughty boy that I am – had only washed half the dishes. So this time it was well and truly my turn to do the work!
Once I got started on the cooking of the spicy chicken, it went very quickly. I prepared the marinade – a variant of my chicken and lamb marinades, but without any date syrup or honey. Basically I gave it the combined heat of black pepper, hot paprika, yellow mustard powder, turmeric and wasabi paste. I did say spicy chicken, didn’t I? However, I didn’t use as much soy sauce as I usually do. But I did throw in tons of garlic.
Then I butterflied the boneless chicken thighs and pounded them with a mallet. This was not just to make them really thin but also to break up the fibers and tenderize them without having to rely on a long period in the marinade. At least that was the theory. I have to say that I evidently didn’t pound them enough, because they still managed to come out kind of stringy. Also I left the fat on, both to add flavor (I must have been thinking of beef!) and because I didn’t want them to fall apart when I beat the you-know-what them with the mallet.
Dripping fat blues
What I forgot was that the combination of the fat I had left on the chicken and the oil the pieces had absorbed from the marinade, would drip onto the hot charcoals and flare up. Now, up to a point, some flare-ups on the barbie are inevitable. And indeed, with a thick, juicy cut of beef, they are even desirable. But with a more delicate cut of chicken – and especially a thin cut – they can easily burn it and ruin it. Fortunately, the burning was minor and within the bounds of what is normal for a barbecue. This might in fact be due to the lack of honey in the marinade. If I’d included honey, my spicy chicken would have been well and truly burnt!
Just to add a bit of variety – and in case the chicken wasn’t to Maureen’s taste – I also threw on a couple of nice, juicy steaks. I should explain that Maureen is a southern belle, born in Alabama and raised in New Orleans. With all that Cajun influence, she’s no shrinking violet – more of a steel magnolia or a feisty Scarlet! But in the end the spicy chicken was not to her taste. Maybe it was too stringy, despite my best efforts. Or maybe it needed longer in the marinade. Either way, she preferred the steak with its basic rub.