“Ethiopian Berbere,” If you’ve ever seen these words on a menu, I’m sure you were just as confused and curious as I was my first time. The food item in question was chicken wings and being born and raised a Buffalonian, I saw this and grimaced. Nobody, and I mean nobody had the right to taint my beloved chicken wing. However, curiosity got the better of me, so I called over the waiter and the following exchange occurred:
Me: “Can you please give me a better description and explanation of this spice you tainted my precious chicken wings with?”
Waiter: “Oh Man, if you haven’t tried the berbere wings, you’re in for a real treat. I can’t describe the flavor profile, however, they’re my ABSOLUTE favorite item on the menu.”
Me: “Sold. I’ll take an order.”
Ha! Needless to say, I wasn’t about to let my close minded pride break the #1 rule when it comes to food recommendations. “Always, and I mean ALWAYS take the waiter or chef’s advice on a favorite dish.” Needless to say, Wow. I’ve had MANY a chicken wing over the course of my lifetime, and I will NEVER forget that spicy, earthy, flavorful dish.
Fast forward 2 years and I was given the opportunity to re-create that same experience with a Cornish Game Hen, thanks to The Spice Hut. My expectations were minor in comparison to my initial experience, however I was absolutely Blown Away. Their Berbere Seasoning (With an added pinch of kosher salt) lived up to EVERY expectation and then some. The spice, the subtle notes of ginger and garlic, mixed with a chili pepper bite, brought me back to that fateful first experience. My payment can only be to offer you, the reader, with the recipe of how I made that happen. Enjoy.
¼ Cup Ethiopian Berbere Rub from “The Spice Hut”
2 Cups of Mojo-Style Marinade
3 Tbsp Kosher Salt
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Cornish game Hens OR 15-20 Chicken Wings
Alder Wood (Chips or Chunks)
Crush the garlic, and place it along with 2 Tbsp of kosher salt in a Zip Lock bag. Place chicken in the bag afterward and pour the Mojo Marinade on top. Seal tight, making sure to remove any air in the bag so that the marinade fully covers the chicken. Let sit for 6- 24 hours
Note: You CAN let this sit in the fridge for up to 48 hours in the marinade, however you need to add an extra 2 TBSP of salt to the mixture to prevent spoiling.
Fire up your grill or smoker to 250 degrees F, and prepare the alder wood. Alder is a lighter flavored wood, and is recommended for poultry. It seemingly compliments the berbere VERY nicely.
Using latex gloves, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard of the used marinade bag.
After drying, Rub the chicken thoroughly with the spice, making sure all surfaces are covered evenly.
Put chicken on the grill/smoker, cook until internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees F, Checking quickly ever ½ hour. If cooking wings, cook until 140-145 degrees F. Once reached, crank your cooker to 350 degrees F , and cook until internal temp hits 160 degrees, checking every 15 mins. This process crisps up the skin nicely.
Note: I do not ever give cooking times when it comes to grilling and smoking. Unlike baking a cake, each piece of meat is different from the next, and there are too many variables involved to accurately smoke meat on the grill. This is a process best measured by internal temperature and feel. Invest in a good Instant Read thermometer, and you’ll be fine.