Grilled “Fauxican” Chicken
There is a certain genre of cooking that’s become ingrained in mainstream (primarily Midwestern) America, which calls for creative combinations of already-processed ingredients to make something new – things like Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup combined with canned French-style green beans and for added crunch, topped with French fried onions for a delicious “vegetarian entrée”. I can’t say I am a fan of having such “treats” on a daily basis, but there is something to be said for combining shortcut things you might already have in your pantry to produce a combination of flavors that make an interesting dish – especially if you need to do something relatively quickly. Tonight’s recipe also relies on that other quirk we have in these parts, which is our love of flavors vaguely Mexican – just spicy enough to be interesting, but which you’d admittedly be hard-pressed to find anywhere south of San Diego. Some call it Tex-Mex, but I like the term “Fauxican”, which is more honest about what you’re actually doing. In any case, we’re well into barbecue season, so let’s make up some Grilled “Fauxican” Chicken. And let’s slip in a fruit that makes a great vegetable – watermelon, seasoned with salt, pepper, and honey, and also seared on the barbecue. Serve with a buttered baked sweet potato, and you’ve got all the best traditions on the plate, each with a twist to make it interesting.
- 1 package of chicken thighs, bone-in, or drumsticks. (Make lots – these will go fast if you have a crowd, and keep very well as leftovers for tomorrow).
- ¼ cup Kraft Catalina salad dressing
- ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot Chicken Wing Hot Sauce
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 package Old El Paso Fajita seasoning mix (reduced sodium, if you can get it)
- 1 mini watermelon, or half a big one, cut into triangular slices, about 1 ½ inches thick, rind left on. Plan for 2 slices per serving
- Several tablespoons of honey
- Kosher salt and ground pepper
- 1 large sweet potato or Beauregard yam – plan for half a yam per serving.
- 6 hours before you plan to cook, combine the chicken pieces, salad dressing, hot sauce, smoked paprika, basil and Fajita seasoning mix in a Ziploc bag. Push most of the air out, seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate flat for three hours, then flip the bag and refrigerate for 3 more hours.
- Light the barbecue, set on high for maximum heat.
- Season the watermelon slices well with kosher salt and ground pepper, then generously slather one side with honey.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (I always finish my barbecued bone-in chicken in the oven, with a thermometer probe. Gotta get it to 160 Fahrenheit, minimum, so nobody gets sick.)
- Place the chicken pieces on the grill, and turn down the heat to medium. There WILL be flame, as the fat from the skin renders out. This will blacken the chicken fairly quickly, so keep an eye on it. Flip the pieces after a few minutes, letting the other side get a nice crispy browning.
- Move chicken pieces to the oven in a baking dish, to finish cooking.
- Stab your sweet potato with a fork several times, and put it in the microwave to bake. For a large yam to feed two people, I found the “3 potato” setting to work just fine.
- Place the watermelon slices on the grill for about 5 minutes to get nice grill marks and to caramelize the honey. Flip over, douse the cooked side with more honey, and let them grill for another five minutes.
- With good luck in timing, all three portions of dinner should be ready about the same time. Serve, with some butter and salt on the sweet potato. Enjoy a genuine Fauxican experience!