Cooking for a crowd in the summertime can be tricky – who wants to sweat over the stove for hours while everyone else is having fun outside? Grilling meat outdoors, and cooking up a side dish that includes both veggies and starches inside, is one way that I have found to solve this problem. At our farmstead, barbecue chicken legs and a savory bread pudding hit both these marks, and please every guest—with the bread pudding as a great main-dish option for our friends who are vegetarians.
Growing up, my dad was not a big grilling guy. While I was growing up his version of cooking was cracking open a can of chili, a package of hot dogs, and a bag of corn chips on a Saturday afternoon. Edible yes, but not exactly living “high on the hog” as my Paw would say. When my baby sister Jemimah was born, I went and stayed with some of my parents’ friends, as we were living in Memphis, hours from any relatives. That evening, while we waited for word from the hospital, my host family served what seemed like a mountain of barbecue chicken legs, straight off the grill. I don’t remember how many legs they let me eat, but I do know that I was in heaven—the mixture of charred, crispy chicken skin, hot barbecue sauce, and the tender, juicy meat, all came together to create the best bite I had ever experienced in my long five years.
After that night I dreamed of indulging in chicken legs like those again, and sought them out anytime I spied “barbecue chicken” on a menu. It wasn’t until I married my husband Nathan, a Southern-bred, grilling-master country boy (and an amazing chef in his own right) that I once again tasted the same tantalizing mixture of charred crispy and juicy sweetness that had fueled my dreams for all those years. Here is the recipe we conjured together—me explaining the flavors and textures I remembered, and he working out the portions and timing.
CRISPY HONEY BARBEQUE CHICKEN LEGS
Prep Time: 3-24 hours
- 12 chicken legs
- shaker of barbecue rub seasoning (Rendezvous is our preferred brand and can be ordered online.)
- bottle of honey barbecue sauce
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup molasses
- You will need a two-level fire to grill the chicken legs. If you have a gas grill, turn half of the burners to high and half to low. If using charcoal, bank the coals to one side on the grill.
- Two hours before you plan to grill (you can do this as early as 24 hours in advance,) coat the legs fairly heavily with the barbecue rub on all sides. Cover and place in refrigerator.
- In a mixing bowl combine half of the bottle of barbecue sauce, the vinegar, the molasses and another tablespoon of the rub.
- Once your grill is preheated, quickly cook the chicken legs on the high-heat side, charring them on all sides.
- As you char the legs, move them to the lower-heat side.
Once all of the legs are on the low-heat side, baste with your sauce mixture and close the grill lid.
- After six minutes, open the lid, turn the legs, baste again, and close the lid once more.
Continue turning and basting, every six minutes or so, keeping the lid closed as much as possible, until the chicken has cooked to well-done.
- The key to yummy chicken legs is their “crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside” counterbalance. Getting the char just right and then allowing your legs to slow cook until done is the key component in this dish. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes in all.
FARMERS MARKET SAVORY BREAD PUDDING
Prep time: one hour to one hour, 15 minutes.
serves: four to eight * Preheat oven to 375 degrees
* Grease 2-quart baking dish and set aside OR you can make this dish in an enamel cast iron baking dish from stovetop to oven.
- 1 zucchini, sliced with each slice about 1/4 inch thick.
- 1 yellow squash, sliced with each slice about 1/4 inch thick.
- 1/2 cup of corn – frozen or fresh-cut off the cob
- 3 cups fresh spinach or kale, chopped (I think kale tastes the best!)
- 1 cup red onion, diced.
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups cubed sourdough bread (really any day old or leftover, crusty artisan bread will work.)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage OR 2 to 3 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
- 1 cup of Swiss cheese (mozzarella and cheddar will work in a pinch.)
- 2 cups 2% milk (or for a richer dish use 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk)
- 6 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup of walnuts, chopped
- 3-5 tablespoon of olive oil
- Cook all the vegetables and garlic in olive oil (3-5 tablespoons) over medium heat in a skillet or in a cast iron baking dish for about 3 minutes or until the veggies become semi-translucent.
- Remove vegetables from heat and stir in bread, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and all the herbs.
- Transfer all of this to a well-greased baking dish (if you are using 2 pans).
- Make sure mixture is spread evenly in dish.
- In a separate bowl whisk together, 2 cups of 2% milk (or for a richer dish use 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk,) 6 eggs and salt and pepper to taste.
- Next, pour egg/milk mixture over bread and veggies.
- Cover with another 1/2 cup of cheese and walnuts
- Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with grilled meat and enjoy!