The first time I heard of Dixie Chicken was when I was listening to a live version of the Dave Matthews Band song Crash into Me, a song that brought my wife and I together after I later
butchered played it live in a dingy little underground bar in South Korea.
A little research revealed that Dixie Chicken hails from the heart of the south of the USA and is one of the many foods that falls under the banner of Soul Food. To me, having grown up in a small country town in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia, ‘Soul Food’ was the name of the diner that Aretha Franklin ran in ‘The Blues Brothers’. However, Soul Food is an incredibly important part of African American culture, particularly in the context of the human rights movement. It was therefore with great respect and trepidation that I attempted my own version of Dixie Chicken.
As with all good southern BBQ, it all starts with a good rub. In this case I put something together using brown sugar, thyme, oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, cracked black pepper and of course, my secret ingredient. Ziplock bags make combing spices so easy and also makes storing them so much more convenient.
Dixie Chicken is typically thighs, with or without the leg. In this case, I picked up some thighs without the legs. These are an extremely budget friendly cut making this recipe one of the more conservative ones that I’ve done. Make sure that you wash them down and pad them dry with paper towel. This will make sure they are as fresh as possible.
Trim any excess fat, skin and meat off your thighs and apply your rub liberally on both sides. This rub is quite leafy so you’ll need to let it sit for a few minutes before applying another layer of rub to ensure the moisture soaks through, allowing you to put more on. Cover them with cling wrap and put them in the fridge for 4 to 24 hours.
An hour before you want to serve, set your hotplate and grill to a medium-high heat. Give it 15 minutes to warm up and quickly turn off the burners, apply some Extra Virgin Olive Oil spray and turn them back on. Put on some mini corn cobs and some potato chips. Season the chips with salt and pepper and toss them regularly. Rotate the corn regularly as well, to ensure they are evenly cooked on all sides.
Once your fries are golden brown, move them to somewhere they will stay warm, move your corn over to the hotplate to finish up and put on the chicken.
Once the corn is done, move it up to the warming rack with your chips and put on some sliced red, green and yellow capsicum. The sweetness of the charred capsicum will nicely compliment the spices of the chicken. When you put the capsicum on, flip the chicken to make sure they cook evenly and the skin crisps. Be careful though: thighs are quite fatty and you can get flare-ups so don’t stray too far from your BBQ. Your chicken will be done when the temperature hits 75 degree Celsius (165 Fahrenheit) or if you’re not using thermometers, make sure the liquids come out clear when you pierce the chicken near the bone.
Plating up is simple: grab a plate and throw it on. The combination of spices in this recipe will have you reaching for seconds and wanting to start cooking it all over again as soon as you’ve finished!
What is Soul Food to you? Is it something traditional, or is it something you’ve put your own twist on? Let me know in the comments below.