Thursday, August 17, 2017

Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q Chicken with White Sauce

As a recreational (and novice) chef and pitmaster, I have spent a lot of time trying to learn all about the different styles of barbecue.  Much of the barbecue literature is fixated on the well known styles of barbecue, such as Texas brisket or eastern Carolina whole hog.  There are many other styles of barbecue, some of which you have to discover by either going to the locale or trying to bring that style to your kitchen.

One such example of a barbecue style is that found in the State of Alabama.  Pitmasters in Alabama smoke pork, ham and chicken, using sauces that are reminiscent of other southern styles, such as the Carolina vinegar sauce.  However, Alabama has a barbecue sauce that is unique to that State's barbecue.  It is a white sauce, used to dip smoked chickens right before serving.  That sauce originated with Big Bob Gibson, who opened a barbecue joint in Decatur, Alabama back in 1925. 

As the story goes,  Big Bob Gibson served pork and chicken at his restaurant.  Gibson used an Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce for his pork, but he needed something for his chicken.  The sauce had to help keep the moisture in his chickens, which were smoked for about 3 hours.  Big Bob Gibson developed a white sauce using mayonnaise.  The sauce gave the chicken a "peppery, vinegary" flavor that helped to keep the chicken moist.  Gibson served this white sauce alongside the Carolina vinegar sauce when he opened his store in 1925.

More than 80 years later, my beautiful Angel's parents took me to Big Bob Gibson's to experience barbecue in Alabama.  I ordered a sampler, which did not include the chicken with white sauce.  I have to admit that, at the time, I was a little skeptical of the white sauce.  Added to that skepticism was my general distaste for mayonnaise.  Consequently, I never tried it at Big Bob Gibson's restaurant.

But, as I noted above, there is the option of bringing the style to your kitchen.  Recently, I decided to  set aside my general distaste for mayonnaise and try the Big Bob Gibson's recipe.  I spatchcocked a couple of whole chickens and put them in the smoker.  I followed the "simple technique" used by the pitmasters at Big Bob Gibson's, namely smoking the chickens over hickory wood, basting the chickens with oil, and then dipping the smoked chickens in that white sauce.   The flavor of the hickory smoke was present in the chicken, especially in the dark meat.  The skin did crisp up, but not to what I would have liked.  (I always need some room for improvement; and, in this case, it is working on how to crisp the skin better.)  

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The white sauce combines mayonnaise with vinegar, prepared horseradish, apple juice and lemon juice.  The vinegar and horseradish give the sauce the kick that one would expect (in my humble opinion) from a barbecue sauce.   That kick gets a little boost from cayenne pepper, but the horseradish is what does the trick for me.  While I followed the recipe in this case, I think that I would add a little more horseradish the next time.    

One final note, the consistency of the white sauce was a little more like a mop sauce than what I would consider to be a barbecue sauce.  That probably explains why the chicken is submerged in the white sauce.   When the chicken was served, I included some of the white sauce in a ramekin or bowl for dipping.


BIG BOB GIBSON BAR-B-Q CHICKEN
WITH WHITE SAUCE
Recipe from Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, page 119
Serves 4 to 8

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 whole butterflied chickens
1 tablespoon of salt
1 cup oil (vegetable, olive, lard)
2 tablespoons black pepper

Ingredients (for the white sauce):
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the fire.  Build a fire (wood or a combination of charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the cooker, leaving the other side void.  Preheat the cooker to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Smoke the chickens.   Dust each whole chicken evenly with salt.  Place the chickens over the void side of the cooker, with the skin side  up.  When the skin on the chicken is golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours, turn the chickens skin side down, basting both sides with the oil.  Sprinkle the cavities of each chicken with pepper.  Cook the chicken for an additional 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add more wood to the fire as needed to replenish the supply of coals and maintain a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  Prepare the white sauce.  While the chicken is being smoked, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and blend well.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Pour the white sauce into a narrow deep container and position it next to the cooker.  Remove each chicken from the cooking grate and submerge it into the pot of white sauce.  Remove the chicken from the sauce, cut each chicken in half between the breasts and then quarter by cutting between each breast and thigh.

ENJOY!

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