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Tailgating Recipe: Jerk Chicken Legs with Hellfire Hot Sauce

Former Baltimorean Steve Raichlen — author of "The Barbecue Bible," "How To Grill" and "Planet Barbeque!" — recently added to his impressive cookbook collection with the release of an eBook titled "Raichlen's Tailgating: 31 Righteous Recipes for On-the-Go Grilling." Raichlen, who has firmly established himself as master of all things barbecue, has now turned his attention to the distinctly American institution of tailgating.

As Raichlen observes in his introduction, "Tailgating would appear to be little more than a big, rambunctious party in a parking lot. But scratch beneath the surface of the beer- and brat-fueled conviviality and you'll discover a raw desire to win. Yes, tailgating itself has become a competition sport."

The eBook is a compilation of 31 previously published recipes covering everything from appetizers to desserts, all of which are tailgating-friendly. New to the eBook is a helpful introduction, complete with a step-by-step game plan for "competition-quality tailgate grilling."

One stand out is Raichlen's recipe for chicken legs with hellfire hot sauce, which he says was inspired by a recipe from a Jamaican master grill jockey named Eric Morgan. These succulent, mahogany-hued chicken legs will need to be marinated at home before heading off to the tailgate but are sure to win rave reviews from the crowd on game day.

Jerk Chicken Legs with Hellfire Hot Sauce

Makes: 4 servings

Cook time: 12 to 20 minutes

Prep time: 4 to 12 hours for marinating the chicken, at least 1 hour for the hot sauce to "ripen" (the hot sauce can be made several days ahead)

For chicken and marinade:

2 pounds bone-in chicken legs, or 11/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, with skin

1 bunch scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 shallots, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1-2 Scotch bonnet chiles or habañero peppers, seeded (for hotter chicken, leave the seeds in)

11/2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 cup vegetable oil or water, or more as needed

For the hot sauce:

1 cup distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste

1-3 Scotch bonnet chiles, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise (for a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in)

1/2 medium-size Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced crosswise, slices broken into rings

Prepare the chicken: Rinse the chicken under cold running water, then blot it dry with paper towels. Make 2 or 3 deep slashes in each piece of chicken. Arrange the chicken in a nonreactive baking dish or bowl just large enough to hold it in a single layer.

Place the scallions, shallots, garlic, 1 or 2 Scotch bonnets, 11/2 teaspoons of salt, and the black pepper, thyme and allspice in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade and puree to a smooth paste, running the machine in bursts. Add enough oil or water to obtain a pourable consistency.

Pour the marinade over the chicken, turning it to coat all over. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight; the longer the chicken marinates, the richer the flavor will be. Turn the chicken several times so it marinates evenly.

Meanwhile, make the hellfire hot sauce: Place the vinegar in a nonreactive bowl. Add the 2 teaspoons of salt and whisk or stir until it dissolves. Stir in the Scotch bonnets and the onion. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt as necessary. You'll have about 1 cup of sauce. Let the sauce "ripen" for 1 to 2 hours before serving. It will keep for several days.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to medium. Leave one section of the grill fire-free for a safety zone.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the chicken well, discarding the marinade. Arrange the chicken skin side down on the hot grate and grill it until nicely browned and cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes per side, turning with tongs. If the chicken skin or meat starts to burn or you get flare-ups, move the chicken to the safety zone. When cooked, the meat will have lost all traces of pink at the bone; make a tiny slit with the tip of a knife to check it.

To serve, place the chicken on a chopping block or substantial cutting board and, using a cleaver, hack the chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding the bones, if any. Jamaican jerk is always served in bite-size pieces and is always eaten with your fingers. Spoon as much of the hellfire hot sauce as you desire (or can bear) over the chicken.

Recipe courtesy of "Raichlen's Tailgating! 31 Righteous Recipes for On-The Go Grilling," Workman Publishing, New York

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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