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


  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


  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.

Slow-Cooked Pork with White Beans and Rosemary


I hauled my Crock-Pot out of the basement the other day. It’s been so cold outside the skin on my fingers has cracked open and now my thumbs have raw, gaping fissures just like you’d see if you were a crazed person hiking in the Mojave desert, only mine are painful and bloody.

The little pot of fancy skin butter I bought – which for some reason I hoped could transform even leathery old crocodile hide into something supple and glistening  – wasn’t getting the job done.

I figured I must need a little more pork fat in my diet.

As luck would have it, I saw a recipe for Slow-Cooker Cassoulet on the Williams-Sonoma website contributed by chef Thomas Keller. It made me and my dry skin salivate for some tender, braised pork.

I dusted off the old cooker and got to work adapting the recipe, going for a kind of Tuscan-style pork and beans with the addition of fresh rosemary and pancetta.

This recipe makes enough pork and beans for even-more-delicious-next-day leftovers.

Slow-Cooked Pork with White Beans and Rosemary

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks , white and light greens parts washed and chopped
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
4 14-ounce cans Great Northern or cannellini beans, drained
2 ounces chorizo or other spicy sausage, sliced in half
1 garlic head, trimmed of excess papery skin and halved crosswise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Cut the pork into 4-inch chunks and season all over with the salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pan and brown the pork in batches. Remove the pork and place in a 6-quart slow-cooker insert.
Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the fat in the pan.
Add the onion and leek to the pan along with a ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Scrape the onion mixture into the insert.
Add all remaining ingredients to the cooker insert, stirring gently. Cook on medium for 6 hours, or until pork is very tender and easily shreds with a fork; stir in the reserved pancetta.

Serves 6 generously.

Inspired by Thomas Keller

Rosemary Lemon No-Knead Bread Recipe

It’s been a while since I’ve baked bread at home, although a slice of fresh, crackling, crusty bread is something I could devour any day of the week.

I made the now famous No Knead Bread a few times since Mark Bittman first wrote about the method in the New York Times two years ago.  By now the recipe for this remarkably easy to make, deliciously hearty loaf has been blogged, You-Tubed, and otherwise replicated hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

What makes this recipe a standout for me is how much it resembles the bread I grew up eating; real Italian bread baked by neighborhood bakeries in small batches in clay ovens, often with crusts so burnished and substantial you could chip a tooth (or two) if you bit in too eagerly.

That bread is becoming harder to find. On my visits to Providence, Rhode Island – the place I’m from – I  try to make a pilgrimage to some of my favorite bakeries before they dry up and disappear like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Here in St. Louis, a city that boasts a respectable Italian-American population, you will be served a version of Italian bread that I can only describe as tragic. Sorry, folks, but calling a pasty, pale blob of starch that a only toothless person could love Italian bread almost feels like a personal insult. Maybe it’s something in the water.

Palmieri’s Bakery on Federal Hill in Providence is one of those old-world bakeries whose products are the standard by which I judge all other bread. Although the last time I visited, I almost cried to see how the place had been spiffed up – the charming old wooden racks, counters and worn linoleum floor I always imagine dusted with a layer of flour and breadcrumbs were gone, replaced with sterile white formica and a shining tile floor. Oh well, remodel they must, but the bread was still the same: fragrant, dark-crusted and dense with a moist, open-textured, cream-colored interior.

Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery came up with the technique of mixing a wet dough comprising flour, water and a mere spot of yeast – barely laying a finger on it – and then letting if ferment slowly before plopping it into a “blazing hot” cast iron pot with a lid to bake.  The resulting loaf looks like it should be sitting on a worn wooden table in a Tuscan farmhouse kitchen. How brilliant is he?

See Jim Lahey demonstrate his famous no-knead technique here.

And the interior of the bread, or the “crumb”, is to die for; just look at the open, airy holes in my No-Knead bread:

The method is simple, but making this bread does require that you think ahead 24 hours, if that’s possible. I’m not much of a planner-ahead-er, but if I can do it so can you.

It also helps to have a bench scraper to help maneuver the sticky dough from bowl to counter, and a nice heavy pot (with a lid) for baking. I have a few lovely Le Creuset vessels lying around, but you don’t need to use one. Baking the dough in something like a round Pyrex casserole will work too, according to Lahey.

Happy 2009…now go bake some bread!

Rosemary Lemon No-Knead Bread

from Williams-Sonoma:
3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 3/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp. chopped lemon zest

Cornmeal or flour as needed


In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and zest. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery (New York City) and Mark Bittman, “The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work,” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2006.