Monday, August 11, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Lollipops

Have you ever been shown a picture that prompts your mouth to start drooling all over the place while your brain says, "Stop everything, I need to eat that!"  Well... May I present a tin of bacon-wrapped Chicken Lollipops, for your consideration?  Here:

If you're bored and tired of the same old Chicken Leg, but you love their sale price, why not jazz your legs up to "Competition Level?"

You will need:
  • Chicken Legs
  • Dry Rub; equal parts of
    • brown sugar
    • chili powder
    • salt
    • pepper
  • THINly sliced bacon strips
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
First, a couple of words about knife safety and bacterial contamination...
Knife safety = Good!
Bacterial contamination = Bad!

This recipe requires a LOT of prep work.  Unfortunately, the more prepping you do, the more careful you have to be about cross-contamination, cutting yourself, etc, etc.  So, if you're right-handed, keep a super sharp knife, a delicious beverage, and a clean pair of needle-nosed pliers on the right-hand side of your cutting board.  Wash your hands, and take hold of the knife with your right hand.  Repeat after me:  "I will NOT touch any chicken with my right hand.  I will only touch my knife, my beverage, and my pliers with my right hand.  I will clean everything with anti-bacterial soap, using both hands, when all of my chicken is prepped and sitting in the pan."

Some of you may struggle with touching or handling raw meat.  This recipe is not for you!  If you're on the fence about it, just take a deep breath, grow a pair, and dive right in!

Now, put all of your chicken on the left side of your board, and place a clean roasting pan for collecting the legs, in the middle.  Begin!  Grab a leg with your left hand, place it on your board, and cut all the way around the bone, just above the ankle.

Use your knife to "shave" a flap of skin down and over the "hinge" of the ankle. 

Here's the fun part, use the pliers and slide one of the "jaws" into the trough that lies between the hinge points of the ankle, and wrestle the "sock" off of the bone.

While you still have the pliers in your right hand (You didn't touch the chicken with your right hand, did you?), grab and firmly tug out all of the white ligaments, and that little "spike" bone that we all find when we eat chicken legs.  There are 4 ligaments to yank, and that one bone to pull out.  This step isn't totally necessary, but if you're cooking in a competition, you'll score poorly if you don't do it.  Also, your family will appreciate the effort when they eat these, so your patience will be rewarded.  Don't worry if it takes you 20 minutes to prep your first leg.  You'll get faster, I promise!

Now, grab the meat of the leg in your left hand and anchor it to the cutting board,  Pick up a paper-towel with your right hand, and use it to grip the end of the bone.  Pull the bone up and around in a circle while anchoring the meat down to the board.  This will ball the meat up into a sphere and keep it collected so that it will stand up in the pan.

Now, go to the sink and wash your hands, knife, pliers, board, and wipe down the area around your cutting board with some anti-bacterial wipes.  Why wash now?  Cross-contamination... that's why.  You don't want to open your fridge, grab your bacon, or refill your beverage with chicken goo on your hands...

When things are clean, go get your pack of thin-cut bacon out of the fridge, and collect your dry rub.  Liberally shake your dry rub all over the meat portion of your lollipops (try to keep the bones clean).  Then wrap each one with one slice of bacon.  Line them up in the pan, and wash your hands, prep station, etc, for the last time.  Why "thin" bacon?  Well, thin bacon is more malleable, and it's easier to work with.  Also, it will add a hint of bacon flavor without overpowering the chicken.

Finally, wrap a small bit of foil around each bone, so they'll stay nice and clean during the cooking process.

Time to cook!  Personally, I prefer to smoke them at about 275 degrees for two hours, or until the inside of each leg touches 165 degrees. 

At 165, take out the pan and dip each lollipop into a mixture of 2 parts bbq sauce to 1 part cider vinegar.  No need to brush or mop the sauce on, just dip each leg and set them gently back into the pan.  Put the pan back into the smoker (or oven, grill, whatever you're using to cook) and bring the legs up to 175.  This will "set" the sauce into a nice flavorful coating that won't run all over the place.  Take the foil off of the bones while they rest for a few minutes, and serve.

Are these a lot of work?  Yes.  Is hard work generally rewarded?  YES!  I smoked these, using apple-wood.  You could certainly use the indirect method of cooking on a charcoal grill, or a (*sigh*) propane grill, too.  Just be sure to monitor the temperature of the legs.

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