No, this is not politics related, people. (You want some of that, get off the style page.) It's directed at all the cold, lifeless chickens sitting in grocery stores, nationwide.
This past weekend, I took my northern ass down to the south to attend Austin City Limits, a music festival featuring artists running the gamut from Dell Tha Funky Homosapien and Jakob Dylan (both of whom have biological claims to fame - one of them is Ice Cube's cousin, but I won't tell you which) to John Fogerty ("Hey y'all! I'ma just strum on this here gee-tar and sing y'all some songs 'bout a possum named Billy Joe") to N.E.R.D. Pharrell's performance included an extended version of "Everyone Nose," which has no recognizable chorus except the sentence "all the girls standing in the line for the bathroom," repeated four times. Huh?
But back to shoving a beer can up a chicken's ass.
Now almost done with the first level of culinary school, I found myself on the plane to Austin equally excited about the music as about the food. ACL's food stands were pretty top-notch, including one from the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que of Driftwood Texas (that serves the best darned chopped beef bbq sandwich this side of the Miss'ippi... or that side... whatever) and another featuring fried avocado (which hits the spot, until it combines with warm beer the wrong way in your stomach and you have to heed Pharrell's call.) But I was most looking forward to my friend's father's Texas-style barbecue, featuring his standard: beer-butt chicken. When I arrived, there she was, sitting tall n' proud on the smoker, breast out, wings tucked in a stately-manner at her side, and a beer can up the butt. Yeehaw.
The chicken was moist and tender on the inside, crispy but not greasy on the outside, and so succulent I found myself forfeiting ribs in favor of more chicken. Cow usually trumps feather meat in my book, especially when it comes to barbecue, but not this time.
So how'd he make it? He prefers to be called "Texan Dan," so here it is,
Texan Dan's Beer Butt Chicken Recipe
Buy a whole chicken, wash it off under tap water, and dry. Have a large plastic zip lock bag ready, maybe a 2 gallon size. Put the chicken in it, and make a brine to pour over the chicken. Let this sit in the fridge overnight. The brine is made with:
1 3/4 cups water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp unsulfured molasses
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
Whisk all this together in a bowl, then pour in the bag over the chicken. Lock the bag and mix it around a few times, then put in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to smoke the chicken, take it out of the bag, dry off with paper towels, and then apply a rub of your choice. Spread the rub over the whole chicken, and some down in the cavity as well.
Then empty out (in other words, drink) half a beer from a can -- I use a darker ale. You could also use Dr. Pepper, Coke, Root Beer, or some sort of lemon-lime drink as well. Put the chicken down over the can--they make these little stands to put the can in, which is what I use--it makes it a lot easier.
To prepare the grill, start some coals, and have some wood chunks ready -- soak the wood chunks (I use mesquite and hickory; you can also use pecan and oak) in water for 30 minutes before you put the chicken on. The fire needs to be indirect so the chicken cooks by indirect heat and smoke. I usually cook these chickens for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Slow cooking is best, around 200 degrees or so. You do want to make sure it cooks thoroughly though. The chicken will turn dark brown pretty quickly; it isn't burning, it is the rub and marinade turning the chicken skin that color. Again, this is cooked by indirect heat, don't put the chicken directly over the fire; it needs to be off to the side from the fire where it will slowly cook by heat and smoke. Cover the grill while cooking. When you take the chicken off, if it seems a little too pink, you can always bring it in and wrap in foil and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes or so, at 325 degrees. The brine (salty solution) is what makes the meat come out moist. If you don't want it moist, and like it dryer, just marinate without the salt. It may take 2-3 times at this before it comes out exactly like you want it. So get going and enjoy.
On the plane back from Austin, I was glad when I found out there would be a complimentary snack. (I'd been prepared to pay $10 for a small bag of nuts.) But when the stewardess thumped the confusing Stefano brand "Steak and Cheese Pizza made with ranch dressing!" on my tray, I knew just where to tell her to shove it.