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On Cooking Southern: Drunken Chicken

Bourbon Chicken
Bourbon Chicken

By Laurie Triplette
Southernism(s) of the Week:
Coot/Cootie Brown/Cooter Brown: A coot is a peculiar and possibly obstreperous old man; the term probably derived from the strange mating dance performances of the American coot bird, or to a cooter, which is a colloquial Southern term for the common snapping turtle … Hence the reference such as  “Stay away from my daughter and my company, you old coot.”
Cooter Brown, aka Cootie Brown, was a perpetual drunkard, alleged to have been a real 19th century person of Indian and black lineage. According to some legends, he lived on the dividing line between the North and South, while others place him in Cajun country. At any rate, this fellow named Cooter dressed like an Indian to ensure he remained free. He kept himself out of the Civil War conflict by remaining so drunk for so long that to this day folks claim a person is beyond drunk when they say “He’s drunker’n Cooter Brown.”
Folks in Oxford have much to celebrate this week, as graduating students depart for new lives with diplomas in hand. The Old Bride is celebrating by grilling up some drunken chicken.
The beauty of drunken chicken is that it can go into numerous culinary directions. I chose to rely on three of America’s most reliable cultures with my boozy chicken recipes this week — those cultures are Mexican, Asian and Good Ol’ Boy.
As friends know, I hate bourbon, and don’t much care for beer. And tequila and I no longer speak because we have a history that’s been written up in song. Nevertheless, I love these three recipes. IF there are any chicken leftovers (and that is usually not gonna happen), they convert well into chicken salads. Now, if I could just come up with a good Scotch-based recipe…
One word of advice: Don’t use cheap booze in your recipes. As my daddy, the cotton broker always used to say, “You can cut corners on some things, but NEVER go cheap with your liquor. The cheap stuff is even worse coming than it is going.”
tequila-limechicken-DSCN6935This dish is quick and tasty. Serve it with a nice tossed salad or with guacamole and grilled corn. I baked mine this week in the oven for expediency, but the chicken is kickier (and prettier) when grilled. Serve it hot or cold with the Chipotle Mayo Dip. 
Chipotle Mayo Dip

1-1/2 c mayonnaise (Duke’s or homemade)

1-1/2 T lime juice

1-1/2 T fresh cilantro, chopped fine

2-1/2 T pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Pinch of kosher salt

chipotle-mayo-sauce-DSCN6944Whisk all ingredients together until well blended. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
The Chicken

1/2 c tequila

1 c lime juice (about 5-6 limes)

1/2 c orange juice (about 2 regular oranges or 8 to 10 Cuties/Halos/Mandarins)

1 T chili powder

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 T garlic, minced

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Whole chicken, cut up, or combination of breasts, thighs and drumsticks

Combine first seven ingredients in a large nonreactive bowl. Submerge the chicken in the marinade for 6 hours or overnight.
To bake: Place on oven pan rack and bake at 375˚F for 30 minutes on each side.
To grill: Spray olive oil on the rack and bring grill to 375˚F. If using skin-on chicken, place chicken skin-side down on grill for 5-8 minutes. Turn over and grill on second side for about 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil to seal in juices.  Keep pan warm on top rack of grill or in warm oven until ready to serve. Drizzle each serving with Chipotle Mayo Dip.
VARIATION: Cut up leftovers and mix with some of the Chipotle Mayo, chopped celery, and orange segments to create a different flavor of chicken salad.
bourbonchicken-DSCN6918The South is a wonderfully mixed-up place, where various cultures have imprinted on each other. This dish was created by the Chinese Asian community, which has contributed many tasty flavors to the cuisine of the lower Mississippi Valley region. Feel free to substitute barbecue spices for the Asian-inspired ginger.

1-1/2 lb of skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 T olive oil

1/2 c soy sauce (light version is fine)

1/2 c apple cider vinegar

1/2 c good bourbon

1/2 c light brown sugar

6 green onion, cut into thirds

1/2 T sliced fresh ginger or 1/2 to 1 tsp ground ginger

2 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced

Whisk together the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, bourbon, brown sugar, green onions, garlic, and ginger to create a marinade. Pour over chicken in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover and marinate the chicken at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Remove chicken fridge; allow pan to warm up to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before placing in hot oven. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally. Check with meat thermometer and serve hot when meat is 170˚F and juices run clear. Serve with rice.
beercanchicken-cookedDSCN6976This delicious recipe has been popular for quite a while. But The Old Bride worries about its food safety — does plugging the chicken insides with a can containing who knows what carcinogens prevent the carcass interior from cooking properly? After MUCH research, I have concluded that using the beer can is fine as long as the fit is loose. Besides, we’re not consuming this dish every day, are we?

3-1/2 to 5 lb whole chicken, skin on

2 T olive oil (I used Tuscan herb-infused extra virgin olive oil)

1 to 2 T kosher salt

1 T fresh ground black pepper

2 T chopped fresh thyme and rosemary or Tuscan Herb spices


2 to 3 T of your favorite dry rub such as Tony’s (Cajun) or Cavender’s (Greek)

2 to 3 c chicken stock or chicken broth

1 T all-purpose flour

1/2 c water

beercanchicken-rawDSCN6968Combine all spices and set aside. Prepare oven or grill for indirect heat, raising temperature to about 375˚F. If using coals, stack the coals on one side of the grill leaving the other side coal-free.
Prep chicken by removing neck and giblets from cavity, rinsing and patting dry. (Be sure to disinfect all area surfaces afterwards.) Rub olive oil over entire exterior of chicken and slosh some inside cavity. Rub kosher salt, pepper, and spice mixture over chicken; sprinkle remaining spices inside cavity.
Open beer can and drink (or pour out) almost half of the contents. Feel free to cut top off the can to encourage beer-steam circulation. Lower chicken over the can, using chicken legs and can as a tripod to support it in upright position.
Place chicken on a pan on the cool side  (non-coals side) of grill, or in a pan in center of preheated oven. Close grill or oven door and roast for one hour. Check on chicken after an hour and freshen coals as needed to maintain constant 375˚ heat.
From the one-hour mark check chicken every 15 minutes until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (not touching the bone) reads 160-165˚F.
beerbuttchicken+gravy-DSCN6987A 4-pound chicken usually requires about 1-1/2 hours. A 5+-pound chicken takes 2 hours. When the bird is done, allow chicken to rest fore 10 minutes before attempting to lift off the can and remove to a tray. Use tongs and a larger grill spatula to loosen the bird from pan and from beer can; lift and remove the chicken; tie legs together with kitchen twine and stuff with a decorative spray of parsley or cilantro for presentation purposes. scoop and remove it to a cooling tray.
As soon as can is cooled enough to lift off the pan, remove it and deglaze the chicken drippings from the pan with chicken stock or broth.  Pour the drippings and broth mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Dissolve the flour in water and whisk into the boiling broth. Whisk slowly and simmer for about 10 minutes to create Beer Can Chicken Gravy.
VARIATIONS: Use chicken broth or apple cider in lieu of the beer.
Blogger Meathead (Craig) Goldwyn states that that the beer-can plug cuts off all heat circulation inside the carcass, and doesn’t even allow the beer to evaporate into steam if the bird is plugged too tightly. Check out Meathead’s blog on the subject and draw your own conclusions: https://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/debunking_beer_can_chicken.html
Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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