Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mr. Bones BBQ

It was BBQ chicken that finally did me in. In fact it was just the smell of BBQ chicken that got my mouth watering and an itch to roll my sleeves up.

When I was a child I ate meat. Chicken liver, fish, corned beef hash, pork chops, chicken skins, meatloaf. We ate lots of vegetables and fruit as well, but for a while there was a time when ordering the steak tips at Hoss' was my all-time favorite carnivorous indulgence. My mother, as I've written before, is a fantastic cook, but there is something about an all-you-can-eat buffet that trumps fish poached in parchment and a perfect roulade, especially when you're in elementary school. At Hoss' the waitress would take your order, steak tips and a baked potato, and then you were free to cruise the salad bar for garlic bread, chocolate pudding and mandarin oranges. With my plate of disparate treasures followed by a hot cast-iron skillet sizzling with bite size beef tips placed neatly in front of me, I was in heaven.

Then 7th grade rolled around and I went from the public school system, to a private school across the street from a biodynamic dairy farm, where gardening is part of the curriculum and where, during the final hot weeks of June, if we played our cards right, and pleaded with enough faintness in our voices, we could run down to the creek for final period and jump in with our clothes on.

I was vegetarian in a matter of weeks, and handing out home-made anti-vivisection leaflets with my vegan friend Dev in The Body Shop at the King of Prussia Mall. I got a pair of Doc Martins, ripped holes in my jeans and stopped brushing my hair, and from then on my mother made two meals at dinnertime.

But time passed and college came. A new set of friends with a new set of eating habits, and I started craving meat again. I think I'd been craving meat for a while, I'd been eating fish for over a year already, and then on a visit back home, perhaps it was summer vacation, I remember going with my parents to a church that was having a BBQ chicken dinner. I probably ate potato salad, carrot sticks and pie for dinner but that was the last time I turned down a drumstick. There is something absolutely irresistible about a local firehouse or church stoking up huge BBQ pits and serving plates of fall off the bone BBQ with homemade cole slaw, sweet corn on the cob and chewy white rolls. Years of careful questioning, "is there meat in that?" ended.

I was converted. 

Then I discovered that a love of BBQ was not just in my bones but my family's as well. My mother's cousin Charlotte has been running Mr. Bones BBQ on Anna Maria Island in Florida since 1992. They are an award winning ribs joint with an international menu and friendly kitchy dining room, complete with a beer coffin where you can grab a cold one at your leisure. My kind of place. A couple weeks ago Charlotte sent up a box of Mr. Bones sauces and their rub, and I got out my electric skillet, heated up my toaster oven and tried them all. The Classic sauce is sweet, smoky and tangy (from the tamarind), the Hot BBQ Sauce is fiery without wiping you out, and the rub is a spicy salty mix that is great on meat but also good mixed with a little olive oil for bread dipping, and stir-fried with rice. It's easy to taste why they're award winning. If you're curious, call them up and they'll have Mr. Bones on your doorstep in a matter of days.

As I was making BBQ chicken in my toaster oven on a cold, early March night, I wondered if perhaps my timing was off. It's not exactly the season for such things. But then I thought about my last post and the fact that a good handful of the restaurants people recommended as do-not-miss were BBQ joints here in New York. BBQ is actually season-less I've discovered. There is nothing about the sauce that has to do with what's available at the farmer's market, a good baked potato isn't hard to find year-round and as for vegetables, any will do, especially a nice crunchy cole slaw.

So here is a mid-winter BBQ dinner, and, if you want to fly South to Mr. Bones for a bone suckin' Spring Break, last time I checked (which was yesterday), flights are about a hundred and fifty bucks.

Thank heaven for BBQ chicken.


BBQ Chicken

For BBQ without a BBQ I washed and patted dry four chicken thighs, covered them in sauce and put them uncovered in a glass casserole dish in my toaster oven at 350. I cooked them for about 50 minutes basting frequently and adding more sauce along the way. During the last 10 minutes I turned the oven up to 400 for a final sizzle of the skins. And that's it!

Homemade Buttermilk Cole Slaw

3 cups shredded cabbage
1 grated carrot
1 tbs. chopped parsley
1 tbs. chopped tarragon

Mix everything together. If you have a mandolin (not the musical instrument, the slicer), that gives the cabbage a nice even shred, but you can also cut the cabbage head into quarters and then along one of the chopped sides, thinly slice the cabbage with a knife. 

Buttermilk Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise (not miracle whip), homemade if you're feeling fancy (I was not)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 minced garlic clove
pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper

Mix everything together and pour over your slaw. Give a final mix and refrigerate while the chicken cooks.

Steamed green beans and some crusty French Bread or a baked potato round out the meal.