The Original Beer-Can Chicken
Sweet Potato “Chips”
Lip-Smackin’ Grilled Asparagus Spears
My motto is “if you can eat it, you can grill it!” And, it came to me quite accidentally when I was teaching a rambunctious and enthusiastic group of Irish cooks at Darina Allen’s famed Ballymaloe cooking school in Country Cork.
I was filled with vim and vigor for my favorite American grill and barbecue recipes and the students were new to outdoor cooking and to the traditions of Southern barbecue. In an effort to get them to understand my philosophy of using an outdoor grill as an alternative heat source, I very simply said, “if you can eat it, you can grill it!” My way of saying that everything tastes better when cooked on the grill.
The 100 students seemed to understand what I meant and over the course of the next two days, I introduced them to my favorite backyard fare. And, although I love every single food that comes hot-off-my grill, this simple meal is what I always fall back on and was the class favorite as well. So, I think it is fitting that I start this column off with my go-to grilled menu that is stunningly simple, virtually foolproof to prepare and infinitely satisfying.
I think Beer-Can Chicken is the best way to prepare a roast chicken—bar none. The beer steams and deepens the flavor of the meat of the chicken leaving it juicy and flavorful while the vertical roasting of the bird allows the excess fat to render out of the skin leaving it crisp and golden brown. It is the kind of chicken that I have seen friends attack with their bare hands and eat with abandon on more than one occasion. And every time I teach it in a class or make it for new dinner guests, I am surprised how many people have never cooked it or even seen it made. Since I have made it more times than I can remember, I sometimes think it is old hat and passé but chicken this good should never become passé. It’s a classic dish made with a new-fangled technique.
Beer-can chicken can be served with any number of vegetables and side dishes but my favorite combination is with simple grilled asparagus, and sliced and grilled sweet potato “chips” preferably cut from a Garnet sweet potato. The bright green of the asparagus and rich orange of the sweet potatoes compliment the chicken and make a pretty plate as well. I often make a custardy creamed-corn cornbread to serve along side these three dishes from the grill and you can grill that or bake it in the oven—as you wish.