At the 2012 Southern Chefs Potluck, Watershed chef Joe Truex and I started talking about chicken and rice and all the different takes on it around the world. It gave me an idea to create a chicken-and-rice competition between chefs for the 2013 Potluck auction, invite 20 people to eat and judge and call it a “cluck off.” I immediately texted Anne Quatrano to see if she’d participate and she texted yes right back.
Fast forward to the 2013 Potluck, where the Cluck Off went up for live auction as one of the chef experience packages. My daughter, Garnie, won it and Anne—who claimed she’d never agreed to participate—said, “Do you not feed your child, Marie?”
(Just another part of her dry sense of humor that very few people get to see.)
Now let’s fast forward again to a few weeks ago: It’s three days before the Cluck Off, I have no idea what I’m making and I’m starting to wonder if I was delusional when I came up with the idea.
I didn’t want to do something I’d done before and I knew Anne was going to show up and blow us out of the water. But at some point I stopped sweating bullets and started cooking.
Joe did baked chicken with red rice—simple, Southern and delicious. And of course Anne did exactly what I’d predicted: She came with Vietnamese chicken lettuce wraps with flash-fried rice and all kinds of condiments on the side, including housemade fish sauce, radishes, carrots, pickles, cilantro and lettuce she got from a farm in north Georgia. It was off-the-charts amazing.
I took boneless, skinless chicken thighs and marinated them in honey, bourbon, lemon, olive oil and Tabasco overnight, then roasted them in the oven for about 10 minutes. I peeled, chopped and roasted butternut squash with leeks. Sauteed collards with onion and combined everything over rice with some chopped peanuts and scallions on top.
It may look like a long list of ingredients and steps, but once you have all the elements in place, it comes together beautifully.
Honey Bourbon Roasted Chicken Thighs with Collards, Butternut Squash and Rice
- Serves 6
- 12 chicken thighs, skinless
- 12 strips bacon
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 preserved lemon, minced
- 6 dashes Tabasco
- 6 cups collards, ribbed and julienned
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
Place chicken thighs in a ziploc bag. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour into the bag. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours or over night.
Place rice, 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a pot. Bring to boil, then turn down to lowest heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Set aside with top on to retain heat.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash and leeks in a bowl. Toss with oil and season with salt. Put on baking sheet and place in oven and roast until tender.
Remove thighs from bag and drain. Wrap each thigh with a bacon strip and secure with toothpick. Place on baking sheet and cook along with squash. 15-20 minutes or until can easily pierce with fork.
Place both squash and thighs in warming drawer or low set oven when ready.
Heat a skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil and sauté collards until tender. Season with salt to taste.
On large platter, layer the rice, then collards, squash, chicken thighs. Garnish with peanuts and scallions.