Edisto Barbecued Mustard-Sesame Chicken

Of all the Sea Islands off the South Carolina coast, only Edisto has resisted, indeed rejected, the massive development that has completely transformed Hilton Head, Kiawah, St. Helena, and most others. To attend a family oyster roast or barbecue on pristine Edisto Beach, as I have several times, is not only to move back a century in time but to witness the culinary rituals in their most primitive forms. Typically, barbecuing is done on grates over live wood or charcoal fires in open pits, and when the menu involves pork or chicken, the sauce is almost guaranteed to include mustard (so scorned up in North Carolina) and a few of the benne (sesame) seeds indigenous to so much coastal South Carolina cookery. Bottles of benne seeds are available in most health food and specialty food shops, but beware that, due to their high oil content, they turn rancid rapidly if not frozen. Also, since bennes become slightly bitter when overcooked, remember to turn this chicken regularly on the grill.

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  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One 3- to 3½-pound fryer chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey


In a large bowl, combine the wine, oil, sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, and salt and pepper and whisk till well blended. Add the chicken pieces, toss to coat well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let marinate at room temperature about 1 hour, turning the pieces once.

Ignite a layer of charcoal briquets in an outdoor grill, let them burn till ashen (30 to 45 minutes), and place the grill rack about 6 inches from the coals.

Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Place the chicken on the grill and cook on both sides till almost tender, about 30 minutes in all, turning and basting with the marinade from time to time. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and honey with 2 tablespoons of the remaining marinade, whisk till well blended, brush over the chicken, and continue cooking till the chicken is fully tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve immediately.