May 22, 2009

Big Bob Gibson's Bama Birds with White BBQ Sauce Recipe

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que, in upstate Decatur, Alabama, has been a popular local hangout since 1925. In the past decade the place has achieved national fame on the coattails of the acclaim slathered on Chef Chris Lilly and his Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que competition team. That's him in the red shirt at right, with his father-in-law, Don McLemore, owner of Big Bob Gibson's and son-in-law of Big Bob himself.

Their team has won practically every major competition on the circuit. Lilly can be seen doing TV commercials for Kingsford charcoal, and he has been featured on the Today Show, USA Today, in the Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Living and numerous other publications. You can even sit at the foot of the master and learn how to make championship barbecue by watching his DVD series.

Big Bob's red sauce has been named "Best on the Planet" at the American Royal Open in Kansas City, but their signature white barbecue sauce for chicken is their most famous because it is unique, although it now has several imitators. Here is my interpretation of the secret recipe, reverse engineered from the original and from the bottled version they sell.

Just a note of caution: This is not what everyone thinks of when they think of barbecue sauce. It is white, first of all. And it is not sweet. Not everyone likes it. But it's a classic and worth a try if you love barbecue. If you don't like it on chicken, it's just fine on coleslaw.

Yield. 1 1/2 cups
Preparation time. 10 minutes

1/4 cup hardwood chips or pellets, or 2 golfball-sized chunks
1 large chicken or 2 Cornish game hens
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon powdered garlic
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground cayenne pepper

Do this
1) Whisk together all the ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate in a jar overnight if possible to allow the flavors to meld.

2) Spatchcock or butterfly the bird by cutting the backbone out with heavy scissors and butterflying it by spreading it out flat. To get it really flat, cut out the keel bone in between the breasts. Run a skewer through the both drumsticks and thighs to keep them from flopping around. Fold the wing tips under the wings for the same reason. If you prefer, you can just cut the bird into two halves. Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper or with a spice mix.

3) Crank up your smoker or prepare the grill for indirect heating. If you are using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side. If you are using a multi-burner gas grill turn off all burners except one. If you are using a gas grill with only one burner put a pan on one side of the grill and fill it with water. Place the chicken skin side down on the cooler side of the grill. Put the wood on the heat source. Use a foil packet with wood on a gas grill. Don't overdo the smoke. Nothing will ruin chicken faster than too much smoke.

4) When the skin is golden, flip the bird. Cook until the internal temp of the breast is 165F or until the juices between the thigh and the body are clear. Remove the birds and paint them on all sides generously with the sauce. Let them rest for 5 minutes and serve with a bowl of sauce on the side for dipping.

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