When developing this recipe for “Meet the Lady: First Ladies”, this creation was code-named the “LBJBBBBQBBB”. If you try to pronounce that you’ll sound like you’re having a grande malle seizure; it’s an amalgam and not an acronym, standing for:
The “Lady Bird Johnson Barbara Bush Barbecue Baby Burger Biscuit”.
In a nutshell, the reason — not for the name, necessarily, but for this particular recipe – is this: Both First Ladies were “Texas Homemakers” in their private lives — before and, more arguably, after their husbands’ terms in office. And each was known for her barbecue contributions (Barbara for her chicken, Lady Bird for her down-home sauce). So a barbecue chicken burger seemed a natural finger-food extension of this theme, and to cross party lines in this hand-held homage, I used my own version of the simple, though famed, marinade from Mrs. Bush’s chicken recipe, and I modified Mrs. Johnson’s sauce to give our finished product its classic Texas barbecue appeal.
The biscuit — a staple in southern cuisine — was also a staple in the White House of the 60s, as Lyndon Johnson was such a biscuit addict that Lady Bird made damned sure they were served at absolutely every meal — private or otherwise — to satisfy her husband’s cravings. But giving due respect, it wasn’t just like baked, buttermilk crack to LBJ: he was known to work until he dropped and often took meals while working and even while standing. He would have salads served to him while toiling in the Oval Office, chopped finely enough that he could eat them mindlessly with a spoon so as to not even divert his stare from whatever state work was at hand. Biscuits, likewise, were found to be an easy way to transport anything liquidy from plate to mouth without becoming a diversion.
I have to admit, Johnson being the sitting President during my birth, and stories such as these, coupled with my research on Lady Bird as the supportive, and herself substantial, woman behind the man… I’m sort of sporting a crush on the pair. Not in a dirty way, mind you; Eew.
But in that lovely, innocent, “fading-of-Camelot, boy from Brooklyn, loving barbecue and loving the fact that despite her public stance which was kept as quiet as possible, Barbara Bush was pro-choice and ballsy, and Lady Bird had the highest hair and sweetest smile” kind of way.
Love them, love their cooking. And I love to think that if they tasted these, they’d taste the tribute and the admiration that I’ve baked — or rather, fried — into each bite.
1-1/2 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Sleeve (approximately 3 dozen) saltine crackers
1 Batch of Bar’s Lemon Garlic Marinade
Oil for frying
1 Batch (approximately 2 Cups) Lady Bird’s Bird Sauce
24* Buttermilk Biscuits, either store-bought in the scary exploding tube, or Homemade
*(This recipe will stretch VERY easily to 36 sliders for cocktail party catering, and if the chicken weighs in at even closer to 2 lbs., don’t be surprised to find a yield of 40).
Place chicken thigh meat in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to coarsely chop. Roughly crush saltines into a separate bowl, and soften with the marinade, tossing to mix (for the frou-frou among us, the resulting softened-starchy component to be added to the dish is known as a panade).
Add the panade (see? Now we’re ALL frou-frou!) to the chopped chicken in the processor, and pulse to combine well. Then, taking care to stop and scrape down the sides and make sure the mix is being evenly tossed about, pulse the mixture to blend completely, then process until a smooth, soft, dough-like paste forms. Transfer to a bowl.
Spoon out balls of dough about the size of a walnut if stretching the mix, or golf ball-size for larger patties, laying them out on sheets of wax paper until you have (depending on your serving needs), between 24 and 36 portions. Wetting fingers frequently to prevent sticking, flatten the mounds out by pressing them down onto the wax paper. Space providing, you can do the entire batch at once, or work in shifts — forming the next batch while the batch before is frying.
Heat oil in skillet to medium-high (about 1/2 inch deep, so patties will be just about submerged), or set deep fryer to 375°.
Cooking sliders in batches of 6 or 8 (keeping care not to let the oil become too cool with each addition), fry about 3 minutes, turning once halfway through, until patties are a dark, golden brown. Remove from fryer and set on paper toweling to drain.
Once all the sliders are fried, transfer to a mixing bowl, cover with Bird Sauce, and gently toss to coat. Set aside.
Cut or split buttermilk biscuits, and place a patty on each biscuit bottom. Spread inside of biscuit tops with remaining sauce to complete each “sandwich”, and place sliders on serving platter (or oven-safe tray to keep warm until serving).
Serve with remaining or additional Bird Sauce for dipping; you may also want to serve them, given the fact that this sauce is so close to what originally inspired (and is thus very reminiscent of) what we think of now as “Buffalo” style Hot Wings, with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks as garnish.