Sure we’re kind of late into summer, but sloppy fingerfood fresh off the grill is always welcome in my book. This dish is about dark chicken meat, smoke, and most importantly, a complicated mustard sauce with a complicated name to match (tarragon citrus honey mustard…maybe it wasn’t that complicated). This zesty sauce is my entry in “Weekend Herb Blogging,” hosted this week by Thyme for Cooking.
- Grill-friendly pieces of chicken. I use drumsticks, roughly 3-4 per person
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Creole seasoning
- A handful of wood chips for smoking (apple-wood is ideal, but I had none and used mesquite)
- Leaves from 4-5 sprigs of tarragon
- 5 or so sage leaves
- 5 basil leaves
- 1 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1 tsp of soy sauce
- juice from one lemon
- black pepper
- celery seeds (nothing to do with the “usual” celery)
- 5 cloves of garlic, diced finely
- optional: leaves from 2 sprigs of oregano or dried oregano
Before you do anything, grab a handful of wood chips and drop it in a cup/bowl of water. You want to soak the wood for 30 minutes or so because if you just throw it on the grill as is, it will definitely smoke up. But hey, isn’t that what we want? Well, not really. After about 5 minutes of that wonderful smell you get from “good burning,” the wood will have completely burnt off and then start letting off arid, char flavor which will really throw off the taste of your food. Soaking the wood makes the wood burn slow and steamy, giving the smoke some time to introduce itself and really mingle with your food. The meat and the smoke are shy. You can’t rush these sorts of things.
So with that set aside, now onto the sauce. There’s a lot of flavors going on in this sauce that each seem kind of bold on there own, but together, you get a really sweet but punchy combination. There’s a lot of acidic, light, citrus flavors–the white wine, cider vinegar, orange juice, and lemon, each of which seems to hit your mouth in a different spot. Then, we’re going to sharpen those flavors up with the spiciness of black pepper and celery seeds. But then there’s two remaining stars of the show–the creamy dijon mustard (obviously–and stone ground can be nice for that whole mustard seed texture) and the leafy herbs, tarragon in particular.
Somehow, tarragon had not existed in my universe for some time, but when I finally tried it, wow. If you’ve never used it before, give it a shot–it’s something different, but not far out there different. It’s kind of like that strange, spicy sweetness you get from basil with an aftertaste that resembles licorice. If you’re like me and you hate licorice, that might not sound very appealing, but trust me, it’s worth trying. Apparently, it’s quite common in French cooking as well (shows how much I know about French cooking! One of the very reasons why Ms. Glaze’s blog is one of my favorite reads…).
But enough talking about the sauce. Making it is really easy: just dice up all of the fresh ingredients finely (I used my handy dandy food processor) and mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a saucepan. Set this aside for now. We’re going to simmer this on low/medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, reducing it by no more than half.
So now, before you fire up your grill, do something I didn’t: verify you have enough propane in your tank (if you’re using gas, of course) so you don’t have to frantically hurry to swap it out in the middle of cooking. Then, preheat the grill where one side is on high-heat and the other is low heat (we’ll be cooking via indirect heat). Throw your wood on over the high heat (and if you’re new to smoking food, obvious lesson that we all ignore: the wood isn’t doing anything for your food if you don’t see smoke!).
While the grill is heating up, I massage the chicken with some creole seasoning just to give it a little character. Toss in extra virgin olive oil so that it won’t stick to the grill and then place the chicken pieces on the cooler side of your grill skin-side up.
Leaves these guys going for about 40 minutes, turning over once or twice to prevent burning. And all the while, simmer and stir your sauce to the side.
When done, plate the chicken and bring on the sauce. And have some napkins handy. 😉 Enjoy!