Marwood Hendrix's BBQ chicken

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jswordy

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Anybody who steps foot in here is looking at at a real treat, and if you make it for someone else, you'll have them begging for your secret.

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My friend Marwood Hendrix was a businessman who was the county chair of Kankakee County, Ill. and he lived in a small town called Herscher, in north-central Illinois. With his brother, Claire, he owned a poultry hatchery (as well as other businesses), and the BBQ chicken was a value-added way of selling chickens. In the 1980s, I was the editor of "The Herscher Press," one of two papers in that small town of 1,200 people – the smallest town in Illinois to have two competing newspapers.

Marwood would set up his Hendrix BBQ Chicken at community events far and wide in north-central Illinois, and I do believe he made millions doing it. People came from as many as 100 miles around to eat it. The crew would set up the long pits at 7 a.m. and start cooking at 9 a.m. on pits they built with concrete blocks at events, often right on closed-off streets. The SMELL would waft over everything all morning. At noon, it would be served. A half chicken and half-ear of corn was $5 back in 1982.

It wasn't until 2020 that I found Marwood Hendrix's recipe online. It had been posted by Rob Mau, the editor of my competing newspaper back in the day, "The Herscher Pilot." By then, both Rob and Marwood were gone, and Hendrix BBQ Chicken is no longer a going business. Every time I make it, the aromas and tastes harken back to another time, another setting, where rural people would gather from farms for miles around for summertime community celebrations, and Hendrix BBQ Chicken would be on the menu.

Now, you can try it too. Here is Marwood's original recipe and then one scaled down for us. Thank you, Marwood and Rob.

HENDRIX BBQ CHICKEN

Original:


Sauce Ingredients:

• one stick of butter*.

• one quart cider vinegar.

• two ounces salt.

• one ounce of pepper**.

(**Marwood always joked that the level of pepper could be increased at events where beer was sold. At Herscher Labor Day Celebrations, his early batches were light on the pepper, but his chicken served later in the day had a bit more kick.)

Keep in mind that the above quantities are for 25 halves of chicken. Adjust accordingly.

First, heat the sauce ingredients together and stir occasionally.

And cook the chicken over a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w heat.

Turn the chickens and baste occasionally. The chicken needs to cook at least an hour.

Internal temp: 165 degrees minimum

FOR HOME GRILLERS

I've pared the recipe down because we usually only cook 8 chicken leg quarters at a time. For this amount of chicken I use one stick of butter, 16-20 oz vinegar, 1 T salt, and 2 T. pepper. (That is more butter than Marwood used, but if you do it, you'll like it. DO NOT substitute margarine.)

I usually bag the quarters and marinade with additional sauce for at least an hour.

If you do quarters and separate breasts, use split breasts (not boneless), marinade the breasts for at least an hour with meat and marinade at room temp and then wrap in foil with two pats of butter on top. Grill these just off the heat starting at least a half hour before you start your quarters. Unwrap the breasts when you start your quarters and grill them over direct low heat. Expect to take 2-1/2 to 3 hours to do a batch.

Hendrix BBQ Chicken was ALWAYS open-cooked over CHARCOAL only. I cook mine on a Weber, using the lid with vents open almost all the way and a chimney and a half of charcoal. My experience is that you will need every bit of that charcoal to get it done.

Uncover, turn and baste every 15 minutes (or one beer) or less. Internal temp should be 165, but I usually go to 170.

Enjoy.
 
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