You Asked For It

Pecan wood is key to McKoy’s unique chicken salad

McKoy’s smoked chicken salad makes a great spread with crackers as well as a sandwich.
McKoy’s smoked chicken salad makes a great spread with crackers as well as a sandwich. Jennifer Lover

Jessica Adams wrote in for the coconut pie recipe at McKoy’s Smokehouse on her father’s behalf. He was recently hospitalized, and Jessica brought him a slice of the scrumptious, custardy pie to cheer him up.

“Immediately he closed his eyes and got ‘the look’ someone gets when they’re recalling a precious memory. He declared it was nearly identical to his mom’s pie that he hasn’t tasted since she passed over 30 years ago.”

We all have those moments, and her request touched my heart. I had never been to McKoy’s and went in for lunch to see if I could fulfill Jessica’s wish. What I discovered is that the coconut pie recipe is a closely guarded secret, passed down through generations of the family.

Luckily, owners and brothers Jim and Ryan Register were willing to share one of their other popular dishes. Jessica mentioned she thinks all of their food is fantastic, so I am hoping that their take on chicken salad will be enough to make her happy. The dry rub and smoky flavor of pecan wood imparts a flavor to the mix that is unique and truly delicious. They serve the salad as a sandwich, but general manager John Ashley suggested it as an appetizer with freshly sliced jalapeños and crackers. It would be perfect as a nosh while you watch Sunday’s big game and can be made well in advance of kickoff.

Pecan wood chips are key if you want to replicate the flavors at McKoy’s. You can find them at many places that sell grilling gear, like hardware stores. If you don’t own a smoker, it’s easy to smoke using an indirect fire in a charcoal or gas grill.

One more note: Jessica is spot-on about that coconut pie. It is incredible. She said I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it and, in the end, I brought a whole pie home.

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.

McKoy’s Smokehouse & Saloon

4630 Old Pineville Road; 704-523-6330

McKoy’s Smoked Chicken Salad

Dry rub:

1/2 cup paprika

2 tablespoons black pepper

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Chicken salad:

1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) whole chicken

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine dry rub ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If desired, the rub can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container. Rub the entire chicken with the mixture both inside and out.

Smoke chicken over charcoal or gas using soaked pecan wood chips until it reaches 185 degrees in the thigh. Cool.

Remove skin, bones and cartilage and dice meat into small pieces. Mix chicken with remaining ingredients and chill.

Serve on a roll as a sandwich or serve as an appetizer spread topped with thinly sliced jalapeños and crackers.

Yield: 3 cups