Rainy Day Barbecued Chicken

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Barbecued chicken always reminds me of my childhood. Gulping down sweet chemical mouthfuls of Country Time lemonade while my father peered over a plate of half cooked barbecued chicken, poking it to check its state of doneness. So maybe the food was secondary back then: the barbecue sauce came from a plastic bottle and the salad was iceberg lettuce and mealy tomatoes. But we’d all gather on the porch of our country place, sitting around a citronella candle, and we’d eat and drink and talk until the fireflies came out and us kids would run out into the fields to play manhunt. Later on, coming home before bedtime, the parents would all still be gathered on the porch drinking Genesee beer, smoking Marlboros, and telling dirty jokes. I’d put on my pajamas and come back out in bare feet to read a Stephen King or  Lloyd Alexander novel with my feet up on the porch rail. Relishing my closeness to and apartness from the adults who’d remained. Bedtime would follow, preceded by the maternal application of Aloe Vera on mosquito bites. I’d fall asleep with dirty feet and leaves in my hair—itchy, but extremely content.

Those summers are long past, but barbecued chicken continues to produce a strong sense memory in me. Whenever I taste those sugars caramelized on crispy chicken skin, I’m back up in the Catskills with the fireflies. Lately, with the weather getting hotter and hotter, I’ve been craving that chicken. But alas, it’s been rainy the last few weeks and opportunities for barbecued dinners have been few and far between. So I finally got fed up and made some oven “barbecue” chicken. Despite the lack of an open fire, it turned out to be the best barbecued chicken I’d ever had. Probably in part due to the homemade ketchup I used in the sauce. I served it with duck fat fried potatoes and a fresh green salad.

Oven Barbecued Chicken

8 chicken pieces

½ cup ketchup

1-tablespoon harissa

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3-cup cider vinegar

3 tablespoons mustard

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1.)   Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2.)   Simmer ketchup, harissa, garlic, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar together until reduced by about half.

3.)   Dry chicken. Season and toss with oil. Coat with half barbecue sauce and place in oven for twenty minutes.

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4.)   Turn over and coat with the other half of the barbecue sauce and cook for another twenty minutes until done.

5.)   Place in broiler five to ten minutes per side for crispy, caramelized skin.

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