Blueberry BBQ Chicken

North Carolina chef Vivian Howard calls this grilled chicken her homage to Carolina-style BBQ sauce, but with a blueberry twist. To make Blue Q Sauce, she cooks fresh blueberries down with apple cider vinegar, chili flakes, sugar, and a cinnamon stick. Slathered on chicken, it produces very tasty caramelized skin.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Blue Q Sauce

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 bay leaf

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Chicken

3 1/2 pounds whole chicken, spatchcocked, have your butcher spatchcock chicken, or see directions in step 4

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Sauce: In a food processor, add blueberries, vinegar, and sugar. Pulse to break up the berries into a chunky pulp. Place mixture into a saucepan; add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, covered, 10–15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat; remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender. Make sure the lid is entirely sealed to prevent sauce from spattering while you blend. Blend the sauce to a smooth consistency, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high. When sauce is smooth, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl.
  3. Transfer sauce back to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, uncovered, and reduce by ¼, about 5 minutes. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon, and the viscosity should be more like maple syrup than honey. Pour into a container and cool to room temperature. Makes about 2 cups. (Sauce will keep for up to 6 months refrigerated in a lidded container.)
  4. Prep chicken: Lay spatchcocked chicken breast side up on a wire rack fitted over a rimmed baking sheet. Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper (about 15 turns of a pepper mill per side). Let rest at room temperature while preheating the grill, 30 minutes.
  5. Grill chicken: Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat, about 375 F. The coals should be ashed over in some places, with red embers burning within. Move the coals to one side of the grill to create areas of both direct and indirect heat. Place the chicken skin side up on the side of the grill over the coals (direct heat). Cover and cook, 15 minutes.
  6. Divide the Blue Q Sauce: half should be used for basting, while the other half should be reserved for the final baste and for serving. (If the cooled sauce has thickened too much, simply reheat in a saucepan over low heat, or briefly microwave to return to its original syrupy consistency before using.) Remove the lid. Use tongs to flip the chicken over, skin side down, onto the indirect heat side of the grill. Baste the underside of the bird with Blue Q Sauce, then gently re-position back over direct heat, still skin side down. Cover and cook, 5 minutes. Repeat this process—flipping, basting, and grilling for 5 minutes at a time, covered—2–3 more times, until chicken is fully cooked. (The leg, when tugged, should become loosened from the breast. Alternatively, a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone, should register 165 F.) Discard remaining basting sauce.
  7. Remove chicken from the grill and place on a cutting board, skin side up. Use reserved Blue Q Sauce to baste one last time and let rest, 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into 6 or 8 pieces and drizzle once more with sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature with additional sauce on the side.

Cook’s Note

To spatchcock the chicken, use poultry shears to cut along each side of the backbone. Remove the backbone, then flip chicken over and press down until the breastbone cracks and the chicken lies flat. For detailed video instruction, see Step 3 of Justin Smillie's "Grilled Chicken with Harissa" recipe in Panna.