Thursday, July 09, 2009

No Beer Can Chicken

We don't like beer flavors very much so we use cans of Spicy V-8, because I like it a lot better straight up than regular V-8. Cans of lemonade work too, and if you go to the mexican section, you can get canned beverages in just about any flavor you can imagine.

1 broiler-fryer chicken
1 can spicy V-8
1 tsp each cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
8 leaves sage

For the fresh herbage, I only use fresh in the above cases because I've got it on hand.

Set up the smoker for indirect heat. Start your fire on one side and let it burn down until the coals are almost ash.

While that's happening, drain your chicken and pull out any goodies stuffed in the body cavity. Neck and such. Replace with powdered spices, then stuff the fresh herbage into the cavity. Lube the chicken with some olive oil. Carry out your lubed bird and the can of spicy V-8.

Set up the cooking grill on the side the fire isn't. Open the can of V-8 and put it down on the grate. Here comes the fun part. Spread the rear opening of the chicken and wiggle it down over the open can on the grate. Try to make sure it's level. It helps to whisper reassuringly in Latin to the helpless chicken. Don't ask me why, it just does. With the can firmly inserted into the chicken's cavity, spread its legs so it is sitting patiently on the can and two drumsticks, with its back (the dark meat side) facing the heat.

Load the coals with chunks of hardwood that aren't mesquite, then cover and close vents to 1/8 open or however you maintain a temperature of ~300 degrees for two hours. Put fresh hardwood chunks in every thirty minutes. Take the chicken from the grill and put in a bowl. Be aware that inside the chicken is a metal container full of boiling liquid. I'm not super fastidious about my grill, so I usually pull the cans out of the chicken right there and let it make a mess so I have less mess inside. At the end of a grilling session I usually dowse the smoker in lighter fluid and ignite. Between the accumulated pork fat and other juices that fire burns for a while. Fire cleans anything.

Carve your chicken like so: cut along both sides of the backbone and remove its wee little spine. Spread the breast out cavity side down and push on the sternum to break the keelbone. Chop off the thighs and divide the breast. Arrange and serve.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Butts of Independence

Well, for the longest time I thought the butt was named for where it was on the animal. A pal and Wikipedia set me straight. It is indeed named for its original packaging, salted in "butts" or barrels. While I knew about the salt butts used in food storage, I always thought the less colorful explanation was more likely, i.e., that the butt is on the butt end of the ham leg. Shank and butt. In life the more colorful option is often the more likely and that is wonderful.

This fourth of July I managed the best barbecue I've made yet, and it went something like this:

Go to Sam's and buy one of those big packages of boston butt, 14-18 pounds or two butt's worth. Make a brine with 4 quarts water, 24 ounces salt, 16 ounces molasses, and 1 cup dark brown sugar. Put the butts in the brine. Fill two gallon zip locks with ice and put them on top of the pork. This will keep the pork under the surface of the brine and it will keep the brine cool through the brining period without using up space in the fridge, assuming you're using a cooler to do this in and not your bathtub or a garbage can or some other damn fool thing. I used a disposable foam cooler. If using disposable coolers makes you "foam" at the mouth . . ha ha, I am a wit and reconteur . . use your own damn cooler and bleach out the porkiness later.

Early on the morning of the big day, about seven or eight hours before eating time, start your fire in your smoker/grill set up for indirect heat. Pull the pork from the brine, toss the brine, and rub both butts liberally with a mixture of 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, 4 tbsp chili powder, 2 tbsp onion powder, and 2 tbsp paprika. Put them in the smoker on the side the fire isn't. Put a handful of hardwood chunks that aren't mesquite on the coals. Close up the smoker and bring to somewhere between 250 and 300 degrees. Every thirty minutes for the next four hours, go out and put some more wood chunks in there to keep it smoky and make sure the temperature is staying in that 250-300 degree window. Going too cold is better than going too hot. Too hot is very bad. Everyone's smoker is different, but my smoker did pretty well alternating between full closed and having the bottom and top vents about 1/8 open.

Sometime during this period preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

After four hours of smoking, pull the butts and put in a foil roasting pan. Cover very tightly with foil, shiny side facing out. Put in 300 degree oven and cook for another 2-3 hours. Pull from oven, drain off fluid that accumulated during the oven braise. Using two stout forks, pull apart the meat so that it comes to resemble, well, pulled pork, which is what it is. Chop up any bits that don't pull apart.

Serve with sauce (of all the budget sauces, I like Bulls-Eye best), plain white rolls or even white sandwich bread, and coleslaw. Feeds a bunch.