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/

Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

I have one thing to ask of you ¬†– please don’t be squeamish about eating squid. I know these bottomfeeding creatures look a bit freaky with their tentacles and all, but squid deserve a more elevated place on your daily menu.

I’ve compiled a short list of good-to-know facts about these tasty cephalopods to help you in your journey toward squiddy-liciousness. Squid are:

* Cheap! They cost less per pound than seafood, poultry or red meat
* Low in fat, high in lean protein
* FAST to cook – in less than 3 minutes
* Hornier than Hugh Hefner; they have frenzied mating orgies

Mario Batali’s recipe for Two-Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style appears in his Babbo cookbook, which I was compelled to make the other night. I’m not clear on whether this recipe is acutally traditional in Sicily; I’m thinking Mario was going for a sexy title. He explains that pine nuts, currants, capers and chiles put a “hot and sour Arabic kiss” on the squid. Sounds good to me.

Later, I Googled around and found Melissa Clark’s version of the recipe, which turned out to be very much how I had made it, sans currants (maybe Sicilian in character, but not so appealing to me), and including spinach since I had some.

Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups canned diced or crushed tomatoes
  2. 3 gloves garlic
  3. Handful fresh basil leaves
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 large shallot or small onion, thinly sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  7. 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  8. 1/4 cup capers in brine, drained
  9. 1 1/2 pounds cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, sliced 1/2-inch wide
  10. 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  11. Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  12. 3 scallions, chopped
  13. 2 cups cooked Israeli pearl couscous

Instructions

  1. Puree the tomatoes, garlic and basil in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, pine nuts and red pepper and cook until the nuts are golden, stirring frequently; about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer before adding the capers and squid. Cover and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, just until the squid is completely opaque. Stir in the spinach until it wilts. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and toss in the scallions.
  4. Serve over warm couscous.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/04/sicilian-lifeguard-squid-with-couscous/

Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter – for some reason this one seems endlessly gray, cold and dreary. But change is in sight, I think; this week I noticed that the days are a bit longer, with the daylight fading into darkness just a few minutes later than last week.

I found myself looking through my stack of cookbooks looking for some inspiration, and lingered over one with a beautiful image of a sun-soaked bowl of golden cherries on the cover: a collection of recipes from Gangivecchio, a restaurant in Sicily that dates back to Roman times. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Sicily at this time of year, but somehow I feel warm imagining myself walking around the winding streets of Palermo, shopping the outdoor markets.

Lidia Bastianach, the Italian chef and cooking teacher, describes in her book Lidia’s Italy how the North African summer sun gives food produced there here an intensity not found anywhere else in Italy

“…the tomatoes are sweeter, the oil is more deeply flavored, the fennel has more licorice, capers are nuttier, and the anchovies and sea urchins taste more of the sea”.

Sounds good to me. In the spirit of hot summers to come, I roasted a batch of cashews and seasoned them with some of the intense tastes of Sicily: fennel, cumin, anise, hot pepper and orange.


Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  3. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  4. 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  5. Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, fennel, cayenne, paprika, anise seed
  7. 3 cups raw whole cashews
  8. Grated fresh orange or tangerine zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients except the cashews and zest until combined. Toss in the cashews and stir them around until they're evenly coated.
  3. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake 20 -25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on a rack - they will crisp up after about 10 minutes. Grate orange zest over the cashews while still warm.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/sicilian-spiced-roasted-cashews/