This recipe comes directly from the cookbook “Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking” by Paula Wolfert. Ms. Wolfert is also the author of “The Cooking of Morocco” which is the March/April selection of the on-line cookbook book club sponsored by Leah of The Cookbook Guru.
Do you ever become enamored by a writer? Paula has done it to me. It happens with novels, TV programs, and cookbooks. I fall in love with an author and have to read everything he or she has written. I think it’s the way Ms. Wolfert combines and uses spices in unusual ways that catches my imagination, I love the unfamiliar. It’s a new adventure.
She has re-inspired me to use my clay cooking vessels more frequently, I have several and they have been gathering dust in the top cabinets for years. My adaptation of this recipe actually doesn’t use clay as I don’t have a stoneware “beer can” baker (might have to investigate). I do have a much used and appreciated beer can BBQ roaster I purchased from Williams Sonoma several years ago. Trying to perch a chicken on a rocking can of beer is an iffy proposition in the best of times and this handy-dandy contraption solves the problem. The roasting pan is meant to be used on the BBQ, it has places for either one or two”beer cans” which snap firmly in place. Thus your chicken is not in danger of tipping over and burning you with hot liquid.
Surprisingly beer can chicken is quite controversial, many folks say that it doesn’t do a thing to enhance the taste of chicken. There are actually on-line discussions devoted to experiments, both pro and con! I am definitely on the pro side, I think the hot liquid (and metal can) speed the cooking of the chicken from the inside as well as the outside, the flavored liquid (you don’t need to use beer) results in a moist and flavorful chicken.
I was intrigued by this recipe because it calls for juniper berries. There has been a jar of them in my spice drawer for far too long. I wasn’t aware that they are used in Italian cooking.
Beer Can Chicken with an Italian Rub
- 1 frying chicken, 3 1/2-4 pounds
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of juniper berries
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, or clarified butter
- 2 small lemons, 1 sliced
- Wipe the chicken inside and out with damp paper towels.
- Using a mini food processor or a mortar and pestle, pound the juniper berries, salt, oregano, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaf to a paste. Blend in the olive oil or butter.
- Slide your fingers carefully between the skin over the breast and legs/thighs of the chicken, separating the skin from the meat. Be careful not to tear the skin.
- Insert pinches of the spice mixture under the skin and over the flesh of the chicken. Use any remaining to season the cavity and rub over the skin. Add a few slices of lemon to the cavity as well.
- Pre-heat your BBQ to between 350 and 400 degrees F (gas), or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat.
- Fill your beer can about two-thirds full of water and squeeze one lemon into it, add any leftover lemon slices to the container.
- Carefully seat the chicken so its legs straddle the beer can.
- Turn off the burners under where you will put the chicken or place the chicken over the spot without coals.
- Bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes until done to your liking. Check it at an hour as it may cook faster than you expect.
- Remove the chicken and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Carefully remove the bird off the stand and transfer to a cutting board.
If you are lucky enough to own a stoneware beer-can baker here are the instructions.
- Carefully remove the chicken off the stand so the juices run into the bowl. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, degrease the juices in the bowl, pour them into a conventional skillet, and quickly boil them down until reduced by half.
- Correct the seasoning for salt and pepper and serve with the carved bird.
It was judged a success by the tasters.
I’m taking this to share with the gang at The Novice Gardener, it’s Fiesta Friday #62 at Angie’s place.