I’m frequently asked, “Why are you called The Surreal Gourmet?” The truth is, the moniker was inspired by the garlic-induced illustrations I created to accompany the otherwise very real recipes in my first book. Unfortunately, the truth just ain’t good enough for some people. One skeptical Australian reviewer went out of his way to chastise me for not presenting food that lived up to its Surreal billing. My first reaction was to cry foul. After all, does the Galloping Gourmet really gallop? Is the Frugal Gourmet really frugal? But something in the reviewer’s criticism lingered in my mind until it provoked an epiphany. Now I amuse myself by concocting cocktail appetizers and multi-course meals that’re prepared from one set of ingredients but presented to look like something completely different. (Sunny side up eggs made from ice cream and apricot halves is one of my favorites). These edible trompe l’oeils have proven to be as much fun for the company as they are for the cook.
One of the nice things about being a surreal gourmet (as opposed to a real gourmet) is that the universe often provides me with foods that’re ready-made works of surreal art. In the vegetable world, purple potatoes, yellow tomatoes and blood oranges all look so unnatural right off the plant that they require little embellishment to qualify as surreal. Sometimes it’s the cooking method that makes the dish incongruous. In previous issues of Wine X I’ve documented my adventures of poaching salmon in a dishwasher, cooking trout on my car engine and ironing a midnight snack. So now, with grilling season upon us, it’s the perfect time to debut my new favorite trick: Beer Can Chicken.
As soon as the concept was mentioned to me by Elizabeth Karmel, the grilling guru at Weber Grills, I knew it had surreal written all over it. Why, even Salvador Dali couldn’t have come up with an image more surreal — or shocking — than a four — pound roaster perched upright on a can of Bud, pirouetting over a bed of red hot coals. And the best part is that since you don’t need any fancy rotisserie implements, you can afford to go hog wild and buy the whole six pack! Trust me, you’ll never experience chicken that’s easier to prepare or more perfectly cooked. The steaming beer keeps the meat moist while the high heat crisps the skin, delivering a perfect bird each time — every time.
The technique couldn’t be simpler: grab a can of beer from the fridge. Open it and take a few gulps. Then rub down a four-pound chicken generously with salt, pepper and your favorite fresh or dry herbs (e.g., rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, etc.). Grab a leg in each hand and plunk the bird cavity over the beer can (see photo). I hope it’s as good for you as it is for the chicken.
|Beer Can Chicken Charcoal: Indirect
Gas: Indirect/Medium1 4 to 5 lb. whole chicken
1 16 oz. (tall boy) can of beer
2 t salt
1 t black pepper
3 T of your favorite dry spice rub
2 T vegetable oil1) Set up grill for indirect cooking. On a charcoal grill this means spreading the coals around the outer edges but not directly below the food. On a gas grill the outer burners are lit but not the middle one(s). Once the grill’s covered (which it should always be for indirect grilling) the circulating heat works like a convection oven, so there’s no need to turn the food.2) Remove neck and giblets, and discard. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken lightly with oil, then rub inside and out with salt, pepper and dry rub. Set aside.3) Open beer can and take several big gulps (making sure the can is only half full). Place beer can on a solid surface. Grabbing a chicken leg in each hand, plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. Transfer the bird-on-a-can to your grill, and place in the center of the grate, balancing the bird on its two legs and the can like a tripod.
4) Cook chicken over high indirect heat, with grill cover on, approximately one and a quarter hours, or until bird’s internal temperature registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast area and 180 degrees in the thigh (or until thigh juice runs clear when stabbed with a sharp knife). Remove from grill and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
LE SECRET Make sure the bird is well balanced before closing lid. Otherwise bird may tip, spilling the beer.
NOTE When removing cooked chicken from grill, be careful not to spill contents of beer can as it’ll be very hot.
MUSIC TO GRILL BY Little Feat “Dixie Chicken”
RECOMMENDED BEVERAGE Your Favorite beer.