Southern Style Thanksgiving

As most of you make your way to family and friends homes, or work yourselves mad in your own kitchen, I have the very rare opportunity of sitting back in the sun this holiday and for once not being the hostess.

Hosting friends and family on Thanksgiving is the most wonderful gift you can give to those you love (and believe me I know as I am always doing it) but I must admit that being hosted isn’t too bad either!

As Bing Crosby once sung about how he dreamed life on a farm to be: “Lazy…I long to be lazy…” Well Bing, I finally know what you mean… Life on this South Carolina plantation is what every mid century crooner told us it would be:

Lazy Acres 

But when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner at this home-on-the-range, it’s anything but lazy:

Setting the river side scene…

Prep for the Party…

And prep for the pig…
A 130 pound BBQ pig, venison chili, and truly “drunken” chicken makes us city cooks look rather small-time…

The four hand massaged pig…

 the pulling of the pork…

Et voila! Perfect pig!

the chili a la venison…
Add on barrels of roasted oysters, homemade skillet cornbread, and southern-smoked smores and how could any yankee compete?

 the infamous shucking of the oysters…

Thanksgiving table-scaping….

 Smoking the Smores… clearly a very intricate process

And somehow it appears that I’m roasting smores in a Janet Jackson video…

 But never one to be intimidated by an extreme Thanksgiving production, here’s something just as splendid and spectacular that you can serve to guests in any setting, small or large..

The Doable Drunken Chicken

Here’s how you can recreate my version of Drunken Chicken adapted from the best of Southern hospitality… It can be easily adapted and done with Turkey of course….

Down-Home Drunken Chicken
Serves 8

2 free range whole chickens
2 cans of your favorite BEER (you can substitute root beer and even cherry cola)

Brine
2 quarts water
5 juniper berries
2 smashed garlic cloves
bay leaf
handful of thyme
a few sage leaves
2 stalks rosemary
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar

BBQ Sauce:
2 thick slices bacon
1/4 chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dry mustard
pinch of cumin, corriander, and 2 pinches paprika
dash of red wine vinegar
2 cups ketchup
1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
cracked black pepper

Method:
1. Place all ingredients of the brine in a large pot over the stove and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1-2 minutes and bring to a light boil or rolling simmer and gently poach the cleaned chicken for a few minutes in the hot brine. Remove the chicken and set aside, and allow the brine to reach a full boil again. Boil for another minute, turn off the heat, and let cool completely.

2. Once the brine is cooled, pour the brine into a large turkey brining bag with both chickens and let marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Make the BBQ Sauce: slice the thick bacon into lardons ( or small chopped-size pieces). In a large sauce pot over medium/medium high heat, render the fat from the bacon. Add onions and garlic and cook until they are translucent. Add the dry spices and cook for 30 seconds stirring until the aromas become strong and apparent. Then carefully add 2 dashes of red wine vinegar.

4. Then quickly add the ketchup and stir to combine, add the sugar and molasses and stir letting reduce slightly and the sugar dissolve. Taste and season (reduce slightly more even needed). Reserve in a bowl with pastry brush aside the grill.
5. Over a gas or charcoal grill preheat the temperature to 375 F or to medium/ medium high heat and keep covered.

6. Take the beer cans, open them and remove about 1/3-1/2 liquid (this can be saved for the chef for during preparation). Place the beer can underneath the vertical roasting stand, and repeat for the other bird.

7. Remove chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels- get it pretty dry if possible. Then Place the chicken on top of the wire beer can stand and smother with BBQ sauce. Place the chicken inside the covered grill and roast for 30-40 minutes, continuously checking and basting until cooked.

8. Remove the chicken, carve and serve- the chicken should be moist in the inside (due to the bubbling of the sweet beer trapped inside the cavity) and crispy sweet and spicy on the outside.

Because sometimes the happiest of Thanksgivings, are the ones you can be thankful someone else prepared…

Darcy Jones

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