MoM July ’08 Bon Appetit: Mixed Grill w/Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce – Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Editors Note: From our Magazine of the Month, the July 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, comes the Mixed Grill with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce.

Photo Courtesy of Bon Appetit

To date, I have had less than impressive results from any kind of smoking or wood plank cooking.  And yet I am drawn to this sisyphean task not through some macho sense of “if it aint bar-bee-qew it aint man cookin!” but because… uhm… because it’s cool.  Ok I kind of petered out at the end there, didn’t I?  Damn.  Started real strong too with the Sisyphus reference.  Ok fine, here’s the recipe:

Spice rub:
2 tablespoons smoked paprika or hot smoked Spanish paprika
2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mixed grill:
1 13x9x2-inch disposable aluminum pan (to catch drips)
4 to 4 1/2 pounds baby back pork ribs, cut into 4 slabs
2 cups (or more) wood chips (cherry, alder, apple, or hickory), soaked in water 1 hour
4 6×31/4×2-inch disposable mini loaf pans (for wood chips if using gas grill)
Vegetable oil (for brushing)
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, pounded with mallet to 3/4-inch thickness
8 fully cooked smoked sausages (such as chicken-apple), pierced in several places with fork

Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 12-ounce bottles (ketchup-style) chili sauce
1 12- to 13-ounce jar cherry preserves or jam
1 cup cherry cola (regular, not diet)
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce

For spice rub:
Mix all ingredients in small bowl to blend. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store in airtight container at cool room temperature.

For mixed grill:
Remove top rack from grill. Place foil drip pan in center of bottom rack; fill halfway with water (if using 2-burner gas grill, place drip pan on 1 unlit burner).

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Sprinkle ribs with salt and 3 tablespoons spice rub. If using charcoal grill, light briquettes in chimney and pour half onto rack on each side of drip pan (you’ll need to light more briquettes in chimney to replenish 1 or more times during grilling). If using 3-burner gas grill, light burners on left and right, leaving center burner off. If using 2-burner gas grill, light burner on side opposite drip pan.

Drain wood chips. If using gas grill, stack 2 mini loaf pans and fill with 1 cup drained wood chips. Stack remaining 2 mini pans and fill with 1 cup drained wood chips. Place pans on flame. If using charcoal, scatter 2 cups drained chips over coals. Brush top grill rack with oil; return to barbecue.

Place ribs on grill rack over drip pan. Cover barbecue; grill until meat is coming away from bones, turning and repositioning every 30 minutes and adding more wood chips to pans as needed, about 1 1/2 hours. Maintain barbecue temperature at 350°F, opening vents wider for more heat or partially closing for less heat. Transfer ribs to rimmed baking sheet; cool.

DO AHEAD: Ribs can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Remove drip pan from barbecue.

Lightly brush grill racks with oil. Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Sprinkle chicken with salt and remaining spice rub. Place chicken, sausages, and ribs on grill racks; cover and grill 7 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush ribs with 1 cup cherry cola sauce; cover and grill until chicken is cooked through and ribs are glazed, turning frequently, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer sausages to platter; transfer ribs and chicken to cutting board. Cut pork between bones; cut chicken crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips. Transfer to platter with sausages. Serve with remaining cherry cola sauce.

Ok here is the rig I came up with to smoke this thing:


I set it up to as close to 350 as I could get, and let it go for a while.  Then I realized I was reading the temperature gauge wrong and was cooking it at 300 instead of 350.  Which is why I wasn’t seeing the billowing plumes of smoke I was hoping for.  So I cranked on another burner, and low and behold:  Smoke!!


Ok, well it was smoke RIGHT before I took this picture, I swear it.  There seems, as David St. Hubbins once noted, to be a fine line between stupid and clever.  As well as nice wafting smoke, and “Bunny, can you come out here and extinguish the dog, please?”  The best smoke I got was, ironically enough, when I turned off all the burners to take the ribs off.  Then it was smoking like crazy.  So I left it out there for a while.

I won’t go into a step by step on this one, but I will say that the sauce was nice and balanced, and got better as it cooked.  The spice rub is very nice, and pounding the chicken flat is a great way to make sure it’s cooked before the outside is all dry and horrible.  And I don’t know who out there pokes holes in their sausages before they cook them, but that kinda crap don’t fly ’round these parts, Buck-o.

The completed dish, sans flambe:


~Citizen Chef

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