Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Double Orange Smoked Chicken Thighs

Some travelers buy souvenir backscratchers or ashtrays wherever they go, for Mark and I we're always on the lookout for something new to bring to the menu back at home. 

Summer trips to Maryland? We score precious pound containers of fat lump crabmeat or sweet, can't-be-beat Silver Queen corn and always a melon or two. 

Michigan in the spring means (also fat) stalks of gorgeous green asparagus.  And I wish we could get up to Traverse City for cherry season!

Ohio? Goodies brought back from Westside Market in Cleveland, of course. How can you not lust after smoked and cured meats and sausages piled high in gleaming cases at the butcher stands, farm fresh cheeses and butters at the family-owned dairy cases and piled-high produce stands that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Last weekend we traveled to Oglebay Resort in West Virginia for the wedding of dear friends. What's nearby, but a huge Cabela's store that has one damned fine grilling and smoking section filled with not just grills and smokers, but grill baskets, grill woks, thermometers of all ilk...rows of sauces, marinades and rubs for fish, meats, poultry and veggies and spices to make any variety of jerky you can imagine. What drew us in, however, was the selection of wood chips and chunks for smoking.

Sure there was the typical mesquite and hickory, but, oh my, the apple and cherry and pecan and alderwood, peach and orange and even smoker chips made from Jack Daniels whiskey barrels! There were bags of chips and chunks, pellets and dust and logs in 2 pounds to 20 pounds packages. 

It was hard to walk out without a bag of everything they had, but we settled on 2 bags each of peach and orange chips. I'm still regretting not picking up a couple bags of the Jack Daniels! (My trip to Michigan at the end of the month will cure that with a stop at the store in Dundee!)

Our Sunday drive home included much discussion on what to smoke for dinner and with what new flavor.
Chicken thighs smoked over orange wood was the hands-down winner.

Once we got home, I put together a marinade of orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, shallots, Grade B maple syrup, garlic, balsamic vinegar and chipotle chile powder to hit all the sweet, savory, tart, spicy, zippy and fruity notes we could imagine. 

To really gild the lily, I whipped up with a glaze of orange marmalade, balsamic vinegar, a touch of chipotle chile powder and granulated garlic to baste the thighs during the last half hour or so of smoking. The double (triple?) whammy of orange smoke and fresh orange in both the marinade and glaze scored raves from us both. Those thighs were heavenly!

Already we're planning what to make for the first time with peach wood. Right now...pending any possible whim...a peachy smoked rack of pork is the frontrunner.  We're even going to smoke peach halves alongside. I can almost catch the aroma on the breezes now....ahhhhh.

I sure am glad we're not into souvenir backscratchers - smoked meats are far tastier. Then again, one of those wooden backscratchers might add quite an interesting new flavor for the smoker! (kidding)

Double Orange Smoked Chicken Thighs

  •  8 chicken thighs without skin

  • 2 oranges, grated zest of one, juice of both (approximately 1/2 cup juice total), reserve unzested orange halves after juicing to toss on top of the coals for even MORE orange-iness
  • 1/2 large shallot, finely minced (appox. 1/4 c.)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, Grade B (it has much more flavor than A)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, chipotle variety - Penzey's has it for sure, but you can find it many places

  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, chipotle again!

Marinade: In a large zip top plastic bag, mix the orange juice, zest, maple syrup, shallot, salt, pepper and chipotle chili power well. Gently add the thighs, squeeze out all the air and zip tightly. Distribute the marinade around the chicken and refrigerate until about 1/2 an hour before putting onto the smoker. You can marinate these as little as 2-3 hours or as long as overnight.

Glaze: Mix the marmalade, balsamic vinegar, chipotle chili powder and granulated garlic well. Set aside until ready to glaze at the end of smoking.

Prepare smoker as you normally would using orange wood - if you can find it. If not, feel free to use apple or another variety. If you don't smoke, don't worry! Just grill them! Once the smoker - or grill - is ready to roll, place the thighs on the grates. About half an hour before the thighs are done, glaze the first side, let them go for 15 minutes, turn and glaze the other side. Finish smoking until tender and cooked all the way through.

Remove from smoker (or grill) and enjoy!

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