Stuff My Kid Eats: Beer Can Chicken with Grilled Asparagus & Avocado

IMG_9181Now here’s a chicken that has `Merica written all over it: cajun spices, a grill, and beer – not to mention the crude jokes that will inevitably follow once you shove the beer can up it’s…well, can, for lack of a better term.  But cooking the chicken this way provides more than just a good laugh, it keeps the meat moist and raises the bird up off the fire allowing the skin to get nice and crispy it without burning or sticking to the grate.

IMG_9182This is me last summer with my first attempt at beer can chicken, and since then I’ve cooked close to two dozen of these tasty hens. It took me a few tries to fine tune the spice rub and perfect the cooking method, and in doing so I had to eat pounds and pounds of delicious meat. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. You’re welcome. And an unforseen bonus to my family’s repetitive poultry consumption is that this chicken quickly became my toddler’s favorite meal. When I pull the bird out of the fridge in the morning to start brining it, she’ll do her little happy dance (a combination of clapping and jumping) and sing, “It’s the yummy chicken! We’re having the yummy chicken!” (As opposed to all the other non-yummy chickens I make her eat.) And even better is when I put the can inside the chicken and she asks, “Why are you putting soda in his tushy, Mommy?”

Beer Can Chicken

Serves 4-6

  • 1 5-6 lb. whole chicken, neck and gizzards removed
  • 1 12oz. can of beer, a lager or amber works best (and if you’re able to get your hands on a local brew, even better!)
  • ½ cup Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper (And don’t skimp on the cayenne, I swear it doesn’t make the chicken too spicy)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 13×9-inch disposable tin baking dish
  • 1 gallon resealable plastic bag

To make the brine and spice rub, combine salt, sugar, and all spices (but not garlic cloves) in a large bowl and mix with a fork.IMG_6803

Place chicken in a plastic bag set inside a bowl big enough to hold it. Set aside. (Folding over the edges of the bag makes it easier to pour in the brine.)

In a medium sauce pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add garlic cloves and ½ of spice mixture, about ¾ cup (reserve remaining spice mixture to rub on chicken before grilling). Simmer, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar have dissolved, about 5 minutes.IMG_6808

Remove from heat and add 2 cups of ice. Let sit until liquid has come to room temperature, it’s okay if the ice hasn’t melted all the way.IMG_6809

Using a large measuring cup, carefully pour brining liquid and garlic cloves into plastic bag with chicken until liquid almost reaches the top of the bag. Fold the edge of the bag back over and seal the zip lock. Place the bag and bowl in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. (Brining the chicken is a key step in helping preserve its moisture and flavor under the high heat, so don’t skip this step, people! Seriously, it only takes about 5-10 minutes of prep time in the morning.)IMG_6812

Once chicken has finished brining, remove from liquid and pat dry with a paper towel.IMG_6846

Rub the remaining spice mixture all over chicken, making sure to completely cover both sides, under wings, and in all the other cracks and crevices.IMG_6851

Prepare grill for high, indirect heat:

For a gas grill, lift the grate and place the disposable tin baking pan to one side of the grill, then fill the pan half-way with water (this will keep the drippings from starting a grease fire in your grill). Turn on all but 1 burner (the one under the baking pan). Replace grate. Close the lid and allow the internal temperature to reach 350-400°F before cooking chicken.

For a charcoal grill, lift the grate and push the coals to one side of the grill, baking up the side, and place a disposable tin baking pan on the other side. Fill the pan half-way full of water, then light coals and replace grate. Close lid and allow the internal temperature to reach 350-400°F before cooking chicken.

IMG_7251{Note: If you have a top warming rack like is pictured here, you’ll want to remove it otherwise it will knock the chicken over when you try to shut the lid. Which is a big mess. Just trust me on this one.}

Meanwhile, use a can opener to remove the top of beer can and pour out ½ of the beer into a glass. (I strongly advise drinking the extra beer before proceeding.)IMG_6854{In case you were wondering, I didn’t suddenly grow hair on my knuckles, these are my husband’s incredibly masculine hands.}

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Slide the ½-full beer can into the cavity of the chicken, legs pointing down (now here’s where the jokes start).IMG_6868

Carefully place chicken and can on the indirect portion of the grill over the drip pan. You may need to position the legs like a tripod to stabilize chicken. Close the lid and cook.IMG_6881

Okay, so every chicken recipe I’ve ever run across says, “Cook chicken until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165F.”IMG_6886

That’s fine, however, I’ve found that the chicken isn’t always cooked through when I rely on this method, so in addition to inserting a thermometer into the thigh, I also insert one in the top of the breast, like so…IMG_6885If the temperature here also reads 165°F, then you’re good to go. With a 5-6 lb. chicken, cooking at 350-400°F, and a train leaving Station A at 6 o’clock, this will take about 45-65 minutes. (If using charcoal, you may need to add more to maintain heat.)

Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carefully removing the beer can and carving. (Don’t dump the beer just yet, because if you slice into the chicken and it’s not quite done, you’ll want to pop it back on the can and put the whole shebang back on the grill a little while longer until cooked through.)IMG_6889

Sidekicks: Serve with beer, of course, and a couple of these grilled sides. While the chicken is resting, throw these veggies onto your hot grill and everything will be ready at the same time. Brilliant!

Lemony-Garlic AsparagusIMG_6887The acidity of the lemon and the sweetness of the asparagus are an excellent counter to the slightly salty, slightly spicy chicken. And the garlic? Well, I added that just because I love garlic.

Lemony-Garlic Asparagus

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tender parts only
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, and lemon juice. Whisk until combined. Line a grill tray with a piece of tin foil (you don’t want all those delicious juices to be lost to the fire), and place asparagus on foil in a single layer. Drizzle with butter mixture and season with salt & pepper.

Place basket on grill set to high heat, close lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender and the tips start to brown. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

Grilled Avocados with Salt and LimeIMG_9334Now I like guacamole as much as the next gal, but this is hands down my favorite way to eat an avocado — and it’s probably the easiest side dish in the history side dishes. (Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appétit) 

Grilled Avocados with Salt and Lime

Serves 4-6

  • 2-3 ripe avocados, halved with pit removed
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-6 lime wedges
  • Kosher salt to taste

Brush each avocado half with oil, and mist the grill grate with high heat cooking spray. Place avocados flesh-side down on a grill set to high heat. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until avocado easily lifts from grate and has sear marks. Serve with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt.

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Stuff My Kid Eats: Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

Stuff My Kid Eats

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“Risotto! Risotto! Risotto!” my toddler squeals with delight as she jumps about the kitchen clapping her hands. This is not a typical response to many of the dishes I serve for dinner. Dinner, in fact, is her least favorite meal, as it usually doesn’t arrive in the form of a sandwich or a waffle. But risotto is different; especially seafood risotto. She thinks she’s getting away with something when I serve it, “You mean I get to eat a whole plate of rice and nobody’s gonna stop me? Yes, please!” The only static this meal causes is when she runs out of shrimp and gets bent that my husband and I won’t fork over ours. Not a bad argument to have with a toddler, as far as I’m concerned!

Seafood and Asparagus Risotto

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Risotto is a traditional Italian meal made with a short-grain rice called Arborio. The higher starch content in the rice adds creaminess to the dish, without actually adding cream to the dish — so it’s a win-win for those calorie counters! This recipe takes a bit more hands-on attention, as it needs to be stirred continually for about 30 minutes, but it’s worth every bit of elbow grease — consider it part of your daily workout!

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fish stock, or chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc (see Note*)
½ bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
24 uncooked bay scallops
12-18 uncooked medium shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails removed
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

*Note: All of the alcohol in the wine burns off as it cooks, so it’s safe to serve to children, however, if you prefer, replace wine with an extra cup of stock.

In a saucepan, bring stock and wine to a low simmer. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, melt butter and oil in a large straight-sided skillet until bubbly. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add risotto and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Using a large soup ladle, pour 1 ladle-full (about ½ cup) of stock into risotto and stir until liquid is absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 ladle-full at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue this process until all but 1 ladle-full of stock has been used, approximately 25-30 minutes. Add the last ladle of stock with seafood and asparagus, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp and scallops are fully cooked and asparagus turns bright green. Uncover and stir until all remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Sidekick: Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a non-oaky Chardonnay.

Shortcuts:

  • Replace homemade stock with store bought stock
  • Replace wine with an extra cup of stock
  • Use precooked seafood and toss it in at the end of the cooking process after the asparagus have been steamed. Stir until seafood is heated through.