Sunday, March 15, 2009

Political Barbecue Chicken

Barbecues are the bread and butter of Midwestern politics. Abe Lincoln attended scores. At one, held at the Urbana Agricultural Fair in 1858, Lincoln was met by a committee of ladies and escorted to a seat at the head of the table as honored guest before his speech. The table was filled with an abundance of barbecued food.

As the story goes, he looked around the area and saw a old woman standing not far away looking intently at him. He immediately recognized her as a waiter and dishwasher at the hotel in Urbana whom everybody knew as Granny. He said to her. “Why Granny, have you no place? You must have some dinner. Here, take my place.”

The old lady answered. “No’m, Mr. Lincoln, I just wanted to see you. I don’t want any dinner.” Lincoln rose from his seat at the head of the table and insisted she take his seat. He then took his turkey leg and biscuit and sat at the foot of a nearby tree while Granny Hutchinson filled the place at the head of the table and ate her dinner as he had insisted.

Day long political barbeques featured hogs, turkeys and sides of beef cooked for hours over low coals or even in pits. This recipe uses smaller chicken thighs so the slow cooking is accomplished in an hour or two, depending on the size of the thighs, while keeping the flavor of a mid-1800s barbeque.

Oven-Cooked Slow Barbeque
5 pounds chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup mild molasses
additional 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
Wash the thighs and pat dry, removing the skin if desired. Mix salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly over the chicken then brush both sides with a light coating of molasses. Place in a single layer, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. When ready to cook, gently wipe the chicken pieces with a damp cloth. Most of the molasses will come off, leaving just the barest layer and that which has soaked into the meat. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Place a wire cake rack on the sheet to hold the chicken up off the bottom surface. Mix the additional half-teaspoon salt with one cup warm water. Baste the chicken with this salted water and bake, basting and turning about every 20 minutes until chicken is deliciously browned and cooked to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. You may cook these thighs on a grill with a very low fire as well. Basting, turning and watching carefully as molasses has a tendency to burn.

Copyright 2009 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

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