Things Are Getting Saucy!: Barbecued Chicken with Cheesy Grits

I lived in the southern U.S. for a long time. More than half of my life, really. And while many would argue that Florida (where I grew up) is not actually the south, but rather the transplanted north (which, to some extent is true, my family included…), I will counter by saying that Louisiana (where I went to law school ) most definitely is the south. The deep south.  And while I’ve said more than once that I didn’t enjoy my time living in that part of the country, I did become fond of more than one southern staple.  The café au lait and beignet from New Orleans.  Sweet Tea from Savannah.  Grits and barbecue from everywhere.

That brings me to today’s meal: Grilled barbecued chicken thighs with cheesy grits, corn on the cob and grilled broccoli rabe.

I really like all things barbecue, and while I know there is “St. Louis style,” “Carolina style” and everything in between, I can’t say that my taste buds discriminate. I like them all, and will eat them all.

There were so many choices when deciding exactly what kind of barbecue to make today (pulled pork, brisket, ribs, turkey legs…I could go on…), and I went with chicken thighs because 1) They looked pretty at the market and 2) it’s still grilling season up here in Chicago for at least one more week. Might as well take advantage, and choosing the chicken does not at all mean that I won’t be revisiting barbecue when I return to the U.S. whenever that may be.  I went the extra mile by making my own barbecue sauce, which was sooo easy.  It was awesome. The Neelys are awesome for introducing it to me. I am awesome for making it.

As far as the grits, I first had them back in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew brought all of us neighbors together, and we started each day with a bowl of grits cooked by microwave, powered by generator.  Simple grits with butter and salt. I’m stepping it up a bit by throwing in some tobacco and pepper jack. Spicy!  And would also be perfect with a runny egg on top, but that’s another meal for another day.

There also isn’t particularly breathtaking about the sides.  However, summer isn’t summer without a little corn on the cob. It was so sweet and fresh it didn’t need any butter or salt, so just I boil the cobs until bright yellow, about 10 minutes.

And finally, grilled greens. I did this the first time last summer and I fell in love. Any greens would work-even lettuce (no joke)- but the broccoli rabe just happened to catch my eye. Dressed with a simple balsamic dressing (no, that’s not southern, but I do love my balsamic dressing…), the greeny goodness was the perfect ending to my perfect plate.

So, like the sandwich, this may not be the most impressive dish I’ve made thus far, or will make in the weeks to come, but it’s probably one of the tastiest, and was everything I wanted this barbecue favorite to be.

For the barbecued chicken:

2 chicken thighs, skin on

Salt and pepper, to season

Make the sauce, adapted from The Neelys:

2 cups ketchup

1 cup water

½ cup apple cider vinegar

4 TB granulated sugar

4 TB brown sugar

1 TB Worcestershire Sauce

1 TB lemon juice

½ TB black pepper

½ TB mustard powder

½ TB onion powder

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Directions for the chicken:

Preheat the grill to high. Grill the chicken until done, about 5 minutes on each side.  Spread with the sauce…



Make for the grits:

Serves two

½ cup stone ground grits (not instant)

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Few shakes of tobacco


1. Bring the broth and milk to a medium rolling bowl in a saucepan. Once it’s boiling, add the grits, tobacco, salt and pepper.

2.  When the grits are thick and all the liquid is done, add the cheese, and stir in a figure eight shape with a wooden spoon until all the cheese is melted. Remove from heat. That’s it!


For my balsamic dressing:

4 TB olive oil

2 TB balsamic vinegar

1 TB Dijon mustard

½ TB honey

1 tsp chopped garlic

Salt and pepper

Mix it up.

Grill the greens while the chicken is cooking, only a few minutes per side until charred.  Cut them up and coat the greens with the dressing.


Put it all together and you get this


Tastes good to me!

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