Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

Back when my family used to actually exchange Christmas gifts, my brother and his wife gave my husband, Rick, How to Grill by Steven Raichlen. We haven't used it that often simply because we're lazy, infrequent grillers, but whenever we do it, it has been fantastic.

Since our friends, Andy and Jean, were coming over for dinner last night and we were already out of grocery budget for the month, I decided to fire up the grill and make Beer Can Chicken*. We had two whole fryers courtesy of our local warehouse foods store and a few cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (I kid you not) already on hand.

I took the fryers out of the freezer Thursday evening so they'd have time to thoroughly thaw out in the fridge (though I took them out early afternoon and sat them on the counter, just to be sure). Before cooking, I pulled all the extra yucky stuff out of the body cavities, rinsed the chickens inside and out with cold water, then patted them dry with paper towels.

(Now would be a good time to heat up your grill for indirect grilling. We have a three burner gas grill, so Rick put some wood chips in the box and turned the two outside burners on high; you should lower to medium once the chips start smoking. We didn't, so Rick left the lid up until the heat dropped to avoid complete and total annihilation of the chickens. As a side note, not sure how much the chips added, but they didn't hurt.)

The largest hands-on time commitment was making a batch of Steven's Basic Barbecue Rub, which didn't take long. Once finished, I sprinkled about 3 teaspoons inside and outside each bird (you could also put some under the skin if you're so inclined) and put a about 1/2 a teaspoon in each opened can of beer. (You'll have plenty left over for future grill outs.)

Please note: before you get your hands all covered with bacteria-ridden raw chicken, you may want to open your beer cans (I wasn't this smart), pour about half of each can into a glass for consumption immediately following bird preparation, and make three extra holes in the tops of each can with an old-fashioned church key-style can opener. (A little research brought another option to my attention: just take off the entire top of the beer can with a regular can opener.)

Once the chickens were seasoned and the beer cans opened and half-drained, I stuck the cans up those chickens' butts to deliver one final indignity upon the poor creatures whose only crimes were giving their lives for our dining pleasure. Then I propped them up on a platter and they sat up there rather nicely, like a tripod, with the legs helping to hold them up. Finally, I tucked the wings behind their backs in a very seductive 'come hither' pose (per Steven's instructions).

From there, I just brought the tray outside, transferred the birds to the grill (onto the middle grate under which the burner was NOT turned on), closed the lid and let it do the work for the next hour and a half.

We brought them in, had a heckuva time trying to get those beer cans out of the girls' butts without spilling hot beer all over the place (Jean had a good idea I will try next time – a little Pam on the can before insertion), then cut up one of the juiciest, most delicous chickens I've ever had. Served with rice, homemade gravy and carrots. Yum!

One bird was polished off, the other untouched, so I put it in a zippered bag and into the fridge until tonight's dinner, at which time I heated the oven to 450˚, put the whole chicken in a pan and reheated it for about 20 minutes. Then I turned on the broiler for two minutes. The breast meat really wasn't hot enough, but that's mainly because I had the bird upside down – obviously, I don't know my fowl anatomy. Made more rice and gravy (I'd saved the 'extra' drippings and this time added a sprinkling of the rub the gravy – delicious) and had another stellar dinner.

So give this fast, fun and easy recipe a try. Neither you nor your guests will be disappointed.

* this version is very slightly different than the one in How to Grill

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Squirrel Problem? No Problem.

At least not according to the fine folks at the National Home Gardening Club. If you're tired of flying rats with tails (believe me, I find them irresistibly cute myself) stealing seed virtually straight from the mouths of birds in your backyard, you may want to give Cole's Hot Meats Birdseed a try. Maybe even literally – it actually sounds pretty tasty.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Back to my Roots

I don't have what you'd call a green thumb. I joke that it's black, but that's an exaggeration. While I'm not a natural, I can keep plants alive. There's one ivy I've had since my sister bequeathed it to me when she went off to college back in the early '80s, same dirt and everything.

When we moved into our house almost 5 years ago, there was a fairly large, very overgrown garden in the back. I was excited at the prospect of getting it going again, especially after a neighbor told me how fertile the soil was thanks to the loving, tender care of the pre-previous owners. He insisted I could grow anything as he'd helped his friend haul in all the manure and other goodies so many years ago.

Based on my brother James' recommendation, I picked up Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening and gave it a whirl. It wasn't what you'd call wildly successful. Zucchini wouldn't grow even though Mr. Barholomew advises against even trying since it will take over your garden. You can imagine what a blow to the old self-esteem that partiucular failure was.

Cucumbers sprouted up strong, tall and healthy only to succumb to wilt overnight. That was a wee bit disappointing. And my beloved cilantro died not long after it was planted. Some things, like my cantaloupe and honeydew, never even bothered to shoot.

On the upside, we enjoyed a decent crop of tomatoes. The banana peppers I accidentally bought (thought they were jalapenos) grew like weeds and mint, thyme and dill all were quite respectable.

The following year, I was extremely pregnant come garden prep time, so I skipped it. Then last year, I had a one-year-old and we were in the middle of remodeling our kitchen, so the weeds took over.

This year, I've been fantasizing about renting a tiller to get the party started. After several weeks of talking about it, I finally decided to just go at it the old fashioned way. So this afternoon at about 3:30, I walked into the wildnerness and started swinging my trusty hoe. Two hours later, you can actually see dirt. Yippee! Five hours later, I'm having trouble walking, but that's another post.

My grand plan is to get back in the garden tomorrow to extract the rest of the weeds, finish turning the soil and then have my seeds in the ground by Mother's Day. Wish me luck.