Tuscan Beer Can Chicken

FamilyStyle Food

It doesn’t need to be summer to roast a chicken on an outdoor grill – we’ve been known to get a fire started during all kinds of weather in my backyard.

I’ve posted a simple recipe for perfect roast chicken here a while ago, and it’s still the method I use when cooking a whole bird, whether inside in the oven or outdoors on the grill.

But there is no doubt that a chicken roasted on a charcoal or wood fire is like chicken nirvana – the crackly, smoke-infused skin and tender, juicy meat that comes from roasting the bird slowly over indirect heat on a grill simply makes my mouth water.

Last weekend I switched up my usual modus operandi with a variation on a classic beer can chicken recipe, inspired by grilling master Steven Raichlen.

Instead of the usual rub and beer combo, I thought it might be fun to season my chicken with Tuscan flavors like fennel, garlic and rosemary, and to use the Italian bubbly Prosecco in place of beer.

I loved it. Impaling the chicken on a can and roasting it vertically means more even cooking and there’s no need to flip the chicken over and risk tearing the precious skin.

This might become my new go-to recipe for roasting a chicken. It’s a good thing I keep plenty of the bubbly around! And plenty of rosemary, of course.

FamilyStyle Food

Tuscan Beer Can Chicken

Serving Size: Serves 4

Ingredients

  1. 1 whole roasting chicken (3 or 4 lbs)
  2. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  4. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  6. 2 teaspoons kosher or coarse salt
  7. 1 teaspoon fennel pollen or ground fennel seeds
  8. 1 teaspoon onion powder and garlic powder
  9. Prosecco or other sparkling wine

Instructions

  1. Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling by piling the hot coals on opposite sides of the grill with a drip pan or large piece of foil in between, or preheat a gas grill to medium.
  2. Put the chicken on a small sheet pan. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and rub about 3 tablespoons all over the chicken to coat it thoroughly, and put 1 tablespoon into the cavity.
  3. Poke a few holes in the top of an empty 12-ounce beer or beverage can and fill halfway with Prosecco or other sparkling wine; then carefully spoon the remaining rub into the can. (You don't need to use expensive bubbly here, unless of course you happen to be drinking from an open bottle as you start to cook, my personal preference).
  4. Center the cavity end of chicken over the can and slide it in as far as will go before carefully arranging in the middle of the grill rack.
  5. Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for an hour, checking halfway through to be sure your grill temperature remains at a constant temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, adding more coals if needed.
  6. Take the chicken off the grill when the skin is nicely crisp and brown and juices that spew out of the chicken run clear. If you want to be precise, gently insert an instant read thermometer in the thick end of the thigh, without touching bone, to get a reading of 165 to 170 degrees.
  7. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 t o 15 minutes before removing the can, carving and serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/tuscan-beer-can-chicken/

Turkey Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

When I’m not busy making my kids’ lives miserable at dinner time dreaming up new ways to torture them with greens and vegetables,  I come through for them with a little comfort food.

While I would love it very much if people would pay attention to their food and start eating lower on the food chain, I never, ever want to become a member of the Food Cop club. Not because I don’t care about you – I do! It’s just that I would  lose all my friends and my own family would probably drop me off at some Home Depot parking lot, change the locks on the front door, and never come back to get me.

This meatloaf recipe is the classic one in my house, and it never fails to make everyone happy. I use freshly ground dark turkey rather than the shrink wrapped mystery meat found in most grocery stores – who knows how long that stuff has been sitting around and what’s actually in there?

It’s always worth asking your butcher if they will grind a turkey thigh or two just for you; however it’s best to call ahead. Some stores don’t have separate grinders and can’t mix poultry with other meats they process without advance notice.

Turkey Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

  1. 2 pounds ground dark turkey
  2. 1 small onion, peeled
  3. 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water (oil-packed is ok - drain well); chopped
  4. 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  5. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  6. 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
  7. 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  8. 2 teaspoons salt
  9. 2 eggs
  10. Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  11. 1/4 cup ketchup

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the turkey in a large mixing bowl; grate the onion on the side of a box grater into the bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, bread crumbs, chile, salt, pepper and eggs to the bowl. Use a large fork or your hands to combine well.
  3. Form the mixture into a football-shaped loaf on a large baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes.
  4. Brush ketchup over the top of the meatloaf Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/turkey-meatloaf-with-sun-dried-tomatoes-and-basil/

Classic Italian Meatballs

Classic meatballs, Italian-American style
Meatballs are personal.

Let me rephrase that: Show me your meatball, and I’ll show you mine.

Oh, wait. No. Not that personal. That’s the sort of thing that goes on in other blogs, the after bedtime, Not Safe for Work kind.

What I meant was, meatballs for me are like Proust’s madeleine. Like any childhood comfort food, meatballs represent a time, place and taste that exists only in my memory. But when prepared in just the right way – today, right now- one bite into a really good meatball could transport me back to my parents’ Sunday afternoon dinner table.

My mother would set out a large platter of meat that had spent the better part of the day braising in thick, rich tomato sauce – the gravy. On it, there would usually be a beef chuck roast, a braciole (a rolled beef flank steak stuffed with cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh parsley), sweet and spicy pork sausages handmade by my grandfather, and meatballs. I always went straight for the meatballs.

Meatballs are so personal that even among family there can be great disappointment. My bias unfailingly (some might say stubbornly) swerved toward my mother’s meatballs. Even as much as I loved my grandmother’s Sunday gravy, I was ambivalent about her meatballs. And because each person’s meatball is as unique in form as their own fingerprint, it was always immediately apparent to me when someone other than my own mother or grandmother had shaped meatballs and surreptitiously slid them into the family gravy pot.

There was that one Sunday gravy which has traumatized me for life. I can’t remember the distant relative who’d prepared them, all I know is this: one hopeful bite of her meatball revealed something dark, chewy and slimy-sweet, an alien nugget that could only be… a raisin. A raisin.

Who would go and put a raisin in an innocent-looking meatball? Why?

Later, my mother explained to me in a stage whisper that it was because great aunt Carmella was Sicilian. Oh.

Needless to say, my family was spoiled by my mother’s stellar meatballs and as a result grew very particular. It was standard for us to rate the quality of the meatballs whenever we ate at a restaurant. We could spot inferior execution every time. Like meatballs made with stale, dried, seasoned breadcrumbs or those that were so firm and rubbery you could set one on a billiard table and smack it into the corner pocket.


Because I believe my mother made the very best meatballs, hers are the standard by which all others are judged. They were generously portioned – almost the size of a baseball; crusty on the outside, tender and almost fluffy within. They were strewn with flecks of fresh parsley, garlic and soft bits of milk-soaked Italian bread. They were sharp with the salty tang of Pecorino Romano cheese. They were big juicy spheres I couldn’t wait to stick my fork into.

My mother is no longer with us, and sadly, she took her meatball recipe with her. She’d told me her meatball secrets, probably more than once, but that was a while ago and the details are sketchy. Did she say to remove the crusts from the bread before soaking in milk? To squeeze out the milk thoroughly or to keep the bread dripping with liquid? To flatten the meatballs slightly while frying? Can’t remember. I didn’t write it down.

Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have inherited the gene for meatball mastery from my mother, and I’ve yet to work out her perfect ratio of meat-to-seasoning-to-filler. I hang my head in frustration, but I’m working on it.

I’ve turned to cookbooks lately, and recently found a recipe in Two Meatballs in an Italian Kitchen that seemed eerily familiar. I played with the recipe a bit and came up with this one. They are very close to my mother’s in method and taste, but just not as light as I’d like them to be. Back to the mixing bowl.

As always, I’ll keep you updated with breaking meatball-recipe news as it occurs.
Until then, what are your cherished food memories? Visit the comment section at the end of this post and share them with me.

You might also like Rigatoni with 20-Minute Sunday Gravy.

Classic Italian Meatballs

3 thick slices Italian-style bread, crust trimmed
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 pound ground beef chuck
½ pound ground pork
2 egg yolks
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon kosher salt or 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
¼ cup olive oil

1. Tear the bread into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. Cover with the milk and soak 5 minutes. Squeeze the milk out of the bread until just moist.

2. In a large bowl, use your hands to combine bread, beef, pork, egg, cheese, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley until evenly mixed. Break off ¼-cup sized pieces of mixture and roll into balls. They don’t have to be perfect – craggy meatballs have character and hold the sauce better.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add as many meatballs as will fit in the pan without crowding. They should sizzle as soon as they hit they pan or the pan isn’t hot enough.

4. Cook meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked through, 6 -8 minutes total.

5. Serve hot with your favorite tomato sauce.
Makes about 15 meatballs

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