Sunday, July 24, 2005

A chicken with three legs

Beer can chicken seemed like a good idea. It was only supposed to be 96 degrees today, not too hot to stand over a grill billowing smoke all around the porch.

To begin, the bird got a bath. A brine, actually.

After that, a rub. Mine is not secret. It's my mother's friday night chicken application, the Jewish quatre epices of paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper. To make it more barbequey I went for some brown sugar and cayenne too.

The chicken was impaled on a half-full can of High Life. The other half--where else?--in my belly. The grill had a nice fire going on one side, the chicken went on the other. The beer can and its two legs function as a tripod to hold it upright.

I tossed some hickory chips on the charcoal, lidded the grill up, and dangled a probe thermometer through the air vent. Smoke everywhere at first. My eyes got in the way. The temp rose to around 350, perfect. I went inside to cool off and chase a toddler around.

An hour and twenty minutes later it looked like this.

At the table I served it with some grilled fennel. The smoke flavor was subtle. The meat was juicy. Crispy, spicy skin. The beer's not for flavor really, but to generate steam so that the chicken cooks from the outside in at the same time as from the inside out. Faster cooking, less moisture lost, better flavor and texture. Also for support to stand the bird upright on the grate. I was thrilled with the visuals. Brought to my mind the delectable birds hanging in Chinatown windows.

This was fun, but the best part was the process. Which reminds me of the bizarre recipe for salmon in the dishwasher. You wrap the fish in foil and run a cycle (without detergent or dirty dishes).


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