Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Grilled Chicken with Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

We are off to New Zealand for a five week vacation, and this was my last chance to use something that I knew our daughters won't use while we are away...the rhubarb growing in the garden. There wasn't a lot, as it has just started to come up properly, but I wanted to have a chance to at least use some of it while I could.

I chose to make a barbecue sauce with it, and basted my chicken breast skewers just before removing them from the grill. I then pulled all of the remaining vegetables from the fridge and made a chopped salad to serve with them.

The rhubarb added a tang to the barbecue sauce, and I didn't add a lot of sugar to counteract the natural acidity it brought to the sauce. This sauce was a hit, and I froze the leftovers for another use, although I'm sure it will be gone by the time we get back!

Make a marinade for the chicken by combining:

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Cut the chicken into long thin strips. I used:

3 chicken breasts

Toss the chicken in the marinade. Cover it and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, while you make the barbecue sauce.

To make the barbecue sauce, cook in a bit of olive oil:

1/2 medium onion, minced

Cook until the onion softens and starts to caramelize, stirring often.

Stir in:

2/3 cup diced fresh rhubarb

Cook over medium low heat until the rhubarb starts to soften slightly. Stir often to prevent burning.


1/4 cup orange juice

Continue to cook over low heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb is soft and the orange juice has reduced to about 2 tablespoons.


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of salt and pepper

Cook, stirring for a cpouple of minutes, or until the brown sugar dissolves.

Stir in:

1 cup ketchup

Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, but still has some chunks of rhubarb remaining.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Thread the chicken strips onto skewers.

Grill the chicken on a hot grill; no oiling is needed as the oil in the marinade is sufficient.

When the chicken is almost cooked through, brush it with the rhubarb barbecue sauce. Cook for a minute, turn and brush the other side. Cook for another minute and then remove from the grill.

I served the hot chicken with a chopped salad, and passed the extra barbecue sauce on the side. Sweet, tangy, slightly spicy and sticky!

  • Rhubarb is naturally acidic, and adding some form of sugar is recommended. The amount you choose is personal; I prefer to keep some of the tartness in my dish. It contains a lot of vitamin C.
  • The water content in rhubarb is quite high, so do not add too much liquid in a recipe where the consistency is important, such as a pie. In a recipe such as this, any extra liquid can be eliminated by simmering the sauce for a bit longer, allowing it to reduce. This will also intensify the flavour of your sauce.
  • Fresh rhubarb stalks can be chopped and frozen for another use. As with purchased frozen rhubarb, keep in mind that the amount of water will be higher than that found in fresh rhubarb. If possible, defrost the rhubarb before using, and drain away the excess liquid.
  • Rhubarb leaves are toxic, so do not use them for cooking. The stalks are the edible part of the plant, which technically makes rhubarb a vegetable!
  • Good flavour pairings with rhubarb are orange, lemon or vanilla; spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, cumin, chili and paprika; herbs such as thyme or rosemary; gin or brandy.
  • If you are short on time, add cooked rhubarb to a purchased barbecue sauce.
  • The amount of spiciness in the barbecue sauce can be adjusted according to your tastes. Add hot sauce, sriracha, chipotle peppers, dried ancho chilies or cayenne pepper.
  • Honey or maple syrup can be used instead of brown sugar, and apple juice can be substituted for the orange juice.

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