FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Wanda A. Adams
Eons ago, I was asked to judge the National Chicken Cooking Contest, then held in Jackson, Miss. As you can imagine, we ate chicken, chicken, chicken at all the events surrounding the competition (not to mention in the judging room).
At the opening reception, which was in an indooroutdoor venue, the chefs had set up grills around the patio so we could watch them prepare different forms of Southern-style chicken barbecue. One that intrigued me was chicken in white barbecue sauce. What the heck was white barbecue sauce? After I'd sampled the dish — rich, tender, smoky, tangy — it became not just a matter of curiosity but a priority for me to get the recipe.
When one of the event planners sent it to me later, I had to laugh. Trust an Islander to get excited over anything involving mayonnaise! (And, as Islanders often do, they specified Hellman's mayonnaise, which is what our Best Foods is called in the East.) Though the sauce is often associated with Alabama, there are dozens of versions of white barbecue sauce served all over the South, most often with chicken but also with pork cuts, fish, even turkey.
All the recipes rely on a balance of tart/spicy to sweet/fatty created by the four basic ingredients: mayonnaise, vinegar and/or citrus juice, sugar or other sweetener and a good deal of ground black or white pepper.
This contemporary version uses reduced-calorie mayonnaise, but you can use any kind of mayonnaise you like. Cider vinegar is often called for but, again, it's your choice. Some versions use honey or corn syrup instead of sugar. And Worcestershire sauce is optional.
This recipe serves three purposes: as a marinade, a basting sauce and a serving sauce. Marinate chicken for about an hour; fish for 20-30 minutes. After you marinate the chicken, drain off as much of the sauce as possible; it tends to burn on the grill. To prevent the chicken from charring too much while it's cooking, mound coals to one side, or use only one burner of a gas grill. Start the cooking over the flame, but move chicken off when it's beginning to brown.
WHITE BARBECUE SAUCE
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir to blend. Divide sauce into three parts: place one-third in a flat pan or dish for use as marinade; place one-third in a bowl for basting and another third in a small pitcher or serving piece for passing at the table. Do NOT use marinade or basting sauce at table; raw poultry juices should not be consumed.
Send recipes and queries to Wanda A. Adams, Food Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Fax: 525-8055. E-mail: email@example.com.
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