I really wanted some Buffalo wings for the big game this past weekend, but I knew every wing joint in town would be overrun with orders. I was feeding a crowd, and even raw chicken wings are so darn expensive at the grocery store. So instead, I reached for the cheapest cut of chicken in the store: the drumstick.
The benefit of a drumstick is all that good skin, but on the grill it can get burnt before the meat by the bone is done. One way around that is to butterfly the drumstick by cutting the meat along the bone, and splaying it out. The process adds more surface area for seasoning and gives you a skin side and meaty side. And sauce really sticks to the meaty side better than the skin. Another big bonus is that they grill up really quickly.
I couldn’t settle on a seasoning. I love lemon pepper, Buffalo, and honey mustard wings, so I figured I’d try to combine all three. I was talking with Evan LeRoy, pitmaster of LeRoy and Lewis, about my desire to combine them all, and he said, “make Bimini sauce!” While named after a chain of islands in the Bahamas, Evan LeRoy learned about Bimini sauce while working at the late Paradise Grill and Bar in Tallahassee, as a student at Florida State University. He described it as “equal parts honey, hot sauce, and butter.”
I made the sauce he described with Crystal hot sauce at home and tried it on a batch of chicken legs. It didn’t have quite the heat I was hoping for, and it wasn’t tacky enough. For the next batch, I added 50 percent more hot sauce—Louisiana this time—and included a bit of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Obviously, the hot sauce is going to have a big influence on the flavor and heat level of the final sauce, so choose carefully.
For a taste of lemon pepper, I used the Chef Milton–brand mix because it’s made nearby in Richardson and doesn’t have any sugar. I was going to get plenty of sweetness from the honey in the sauce. Most commercial lemon pepper seasonings already have salt in the mix. Check the label, and if so, there’s no need for additional salt. I made two batches. One was seasoned a day ahead of time, and the other just before going onto the grill. There wasn’t much of a difference. That first batch was also too light on the lemon flavor, so a dash of lemon pepper at the very end helps to boost the flavor.
Butterflied Bimini Chicken Drumsticks
- charcoal grill
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 4–6 ounces hot sauce of choice
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 4 ounces honey
- 12 chicken drumsticks
- lemon pepper seasoning, to taste
- Make the Bimini sauce first. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and combine it with enough hot sauce to make a slurry and set aside.
- Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it’s mostly melted, add the honey, the remaining hot sauce, and the cornstarch slurry, and whisk the ingredients to combine. (For a milder sauce, you can use 4 ounces of hot sauce, but I prefer it with the full 6 ounces.) Bring to a boil, and let boil for 10 seconds or so before removing the pan from the heat. Whisk again to combine and set aside.
- Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking.
- Butterfly the drumsticks. The skin on each chicken drumstick comes up higher on one side than the other. Flip it so the low side is facing up. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut through the skin and meat on both sides of the bone. Follow the bone from the top of the drumstick to about three-quarters of the way down. Continue cutting along the bone to expose more of the meat, taking care not to cut through the skin on the other side. When drumstick is skin-side up, the finished product is oddly reminiscent of a stingray.
- Once all the drumsticks have been butterflied, season them on both sides with the lemon pepper. Don’t go too heavy because you’ll add more after they’ve been sauced. Transfer them to the grill, directly over the hot charcoal, and flip often. Because they’re butterflied, they’ll be done more quickly than a standard chicken drumstick. Pull them off when they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, which should take about 10 minutes.
- Place a few of the grilled drumsticks into a bowl, spoon over some of the Bimini sauce, and toss until coated. Repeat with the rest of the wings and sprinkle a bit more lemon pepper seasoning over the sauced wings. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing or ranch or nothing at all.