Thursday, September 24, 2009

Have Beer, Will Travel.....or Grill.....

In the ongoing saga that is my husband's love affair with his grill, we are constantly trying new things so that he can learn lots of different ways to use his new toy. We have made beer-butt chicken once before, with mixed results. Recently, I was placing a book order on when I ran across a copy of Steven Raichlen's Beer Can Chicken for $.75. I could hardly resist that. While I have been acquiring some new cookbooks recently, I've also been picking several up for Matt. This book has a section on variations for beer-can chicken (which, if you are not familiar, is a whole chicken, impaled on an open can of beer, and then grilled upright) as well as one for Beer-less Birds, and Other Birds on a Can. What really caught my eye, and made the decision to get the book for him, was the reference to "Welder's Chicken". Well, you know the hubs is a welder by trade, so I couldn't resist.
Saturday, I picked up a couple of roasters and invited Matt's sister and another friend over for dinner. I went to work prepping the birds. We decided to try two different recipes, and since we only had one beer can chicken roaster, we settled on a Cajun Chicken and the Welder's Chicken (which is wrapped in layers of foil instead of roasted on the can. Hence, the are supposed to pick it up off the grill with welder's gloves because using tongs would break through the foil and release all the lovely juices prematurely.)
I will include both recipes at the bottom, but since he instructs you on specific grill set up for each recipe, if you want to try it, you may want to pick up a cheap copy for yourself! If you're really serious, let me know and I'll scan the pages and email them to you! The recipes are long, but its worth reading them because I included some personal notes here and there about our experience with them.
After about an hour and a half (right on schedule, based on Raichlen's instructions) we had two beautiful birds sitting on our table. He suggests checking the birds' temperatures with an instant--read thermometer to determine doneness, but it was completely unnecessary. The Cajun Chicken won our hearts immediately, as it was the most gorgeous bird any of us had ever seen. Golden and gorgeous with a nice crispy skin and the meat was lovely and smoked (this one is grilled over indirect heat). The welder's chicken lacked the aesthetic appeal, since roasting it wrapped in foil prevented any browning, but the bird literally fell apart, was moist and delicious, and had hints of both the bacon and lemon without being overbearing.
There was very little conversation that extended beyond "Mmmmm" and "ooooh my god..." and there was even the occasional "forking" of another diner's hand when one tried to keep a piece of crispy skin away from another (seriously, my niece jabbed our friend Mike in the hand for trying to take it from her). A couple of people even got a little wild (yes, there was alcohol involved, and yes, we live in the country) and chicken bones were flung over the side of the deck as they were licked clean. I know, it sounds very redneck, and it was, but sometimes you just gotta live in the moment...
So, here they are, it was a bit dark, and we were famished, so the pictures aren't fabulous, but take a look at these girls....The gorgeous birds and some baby zucchinis...The Welder's Chicken...And, finally, the Cajun Chicken. A terrible picture, it doesn't do her beauty justice....Ragin' Cajun Beer Can Chicken

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves 2 to 4
For the beer can chicken:
1 can (12 ounces) beer
1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

For the rub:
1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

You'll need: 2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 1 hour in water or beer to cover, then drained; vertical chicken roaster (optional)
1. Pop the tab off the beer can. Using a church key-style can opener, make 2 or 3 additional holes in the top of the can. Pour the Liquid Smoke into one of these holes. Insert a chopstick or skewer and gently stir to mix the Liquid Smoke and beer.
2. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place the chicken in a large bowl on its side and pour half the smoke-flavored beer over it. Let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 45 minutes, turning twice. Make sure each breast side and the back have marinated for 15 minutes. Set the can with the remaining smoke-flavored beer aside
3. Make the rub: Put the Cajun and Old Bay seasonings in a small bowl and stir to mix.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (see page 000 for charcoal or page 000 for gas) and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.
5. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the rub inside the body and cavity and 1 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon rub and rub it all over the skin.
6. Spoon the remaining rub through a hole in the top of the can into the beer. Don't worry if it foams up; this is normal. If grilling the chicken on the beer can, hold the chicken upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom and lower the bird onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. If using a vertical chicken roaster, fill it with the beer as described on page 000 and position the chicken on top.
7. If using the beer can, pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. You don't need to do this if using a vertical chicken roaster. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken's back.
8. When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180¡ F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in a thigh), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. (See page 000 for other tests for doneness.) If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.
9. Using tongs, grab the bird with tongs by the beer can just below the bottom, carefully transfer it in its upright position to a platter, and present it to your guests. If using a vertical chicken roaster, grab it with oven mitts or pot holders. Let rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift the chicken off the support. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Normally I discard the beer, but some people like to save it for making barbecue sauce. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve.

Welder's Chicken
1 stewing hen or roasting chicken (6-7 pounds)
1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 slices bacon (the smokier, the better) (yeah, I used, like TEN. Come on, its BACON)

You'll also need 4 pieces heavy duty aluminum foil (30 by 18 inches each)
1. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. 2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 3 strips of zest (the oil-rich outer rind) from the lemon, taking care not to remove any of the bitter white pith underneath. Place 1 strip in the neck cavity and 2 strips in the body cavity of the hen. Cut the rind and white pith off the lemon and discard. Cut the lemon crosswise into thin slices and remove the seeds with a fork.
3. Rub the outside of the hen with cut garlic. Place 2 garlic cloves (4 halves) in the body cavity and 1 clove in the neck cavity. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning inside the body cavity and 1 teaspoon inside the neck cavity. Sprinkle the remaining poultry seasoning on the outside of the bird. Generously season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper.
4. Place a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil shiny side down on a work surface. Place 2 bacon slices in the center and place a few lemon slices on top of them. Place the hen breast side up so the backbone is parallel to the long side of the foil, on the bacon. Drape the remaining slices of bacon over the breast and top with the remaining lemon slices. Bring the ends of the aluminum foil up over the hen, folding over the edges several times and crimping them to make a tight seal. Tightly wrap the bird in 3 additional layers of foil, shiny side out ( so it will reflect the heat) to make a sturdy packet. Be sure all of the bird is covered with foil.
5. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, place the foil wrapped hen on the hot grill and grill until hen is cooked through (about 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted into the hen flesh, but not touching a bone) (yeah, so I'm thinking to myself, this bird is wrapped in FOUR, count 'em, FOUR layers of individually wrapped foil. How in the holy hell am I going to insert a thermometer through the packet without letting all the liquid and steam out, not to mention, finding the right part of the bird to stick it into? Trust me on this one, just cook it an hour and a half or so, and it will be fine. We opened the packet and legs and wings just FELL off), 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, turning and rotating the bird every 15 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour.
6. Transfer the hen to a platter and, if you like, show it off in its flame-darkened packet to your guests. (yeah, right, our guests were so hungry for chicken by this time that they were tearing it out of the foil before it even made it to the table!) Let the hen rest 5 minutes (again, I don't think so), then, wearing welder's gloves or heavy duty grill mitts, unwrap the bird. (my husband is a welder, and yet we all have little burns on out finger tips because we were all too lazy and/or ravenously hungry to go looking for his welder's gloves) Take care to avoid the escaping steam (seriously, unless you want a poultry facial). Scrape off and discard the bacon (not us country folks, as much as it grossed me out, people gladly ATE that bacon). Serve the hen at once (no shit, Sherlock).


ARLENE said...

I have to agree that the Cajun chicken is gorgeous--I'm a sucker for crispy skin! We eat so much chicken we ought to have sprouted feathers by now. I can see my SO fitting right into the group, tossing bones off the deck and pounding a few beers. As for me, I like to eat the little bones. Unfortunately, I've had to give up that little trick since I was diagnosed with diverticulosis. We need a new grill badly, but want to wait until a Webber goes on sale. I wonder if they ever do????

Jhonny walker said...

see I would not complain...I am looking for a nice (cheap) grill....but lack the enthusiasm to go hunt for it....your pictures are making me motivated once again :)

heatherisathome said...

My goodness, this looks good!!!!!

Kim said...

Sounds like we would fit right into the group of throwing bones off the porch too, I am in KY after all-LOL!
We've tried beer can chicken before, but it's never looked as good as yours. Sounds like a great time and some super good food!

Pam said...

Well, I've sworn off buying new cookbooks, but I don't think I can resist this!