Apple-Hickory Smoked Chicken

Two fat birds ready to be smoked!

This morning I woke up from a nightmare. I was the cooking wench for the House of Stark in their ancestral castle of Winterfell, located in Westeros, the northernmost province of the Seven Kingdoms.

I had just pulled these birds from the pit as winter fell, promising to linger for many, many years.

Yes, indeed. The weather is a persistent theme in THE GAME OF THRONES, as it’s been the refrain in Michigan. This year, us

Marinate the chickens.

Woverines stayed bundled up well into Spring and then torrential rains hit our state, flooding shorelines and damaging crops: “Great Lakes water levels at precipice of a disaster,” says The Weather Channel.

But that was yesterday. Hopefully, a bad dream. Today, the weather is dry, the sun is shining and I await my family, excited to spend a few days with my brood. Right now I’m sitting beside my long time pal and confidant, the BIG GREEN EGG, who is looking forward to lots of action this summer.

I’d rather be looking at you (-:

This is a recipe (aka: Beer Can Chicken or Drunken Chicken) I’ve made dozens of times. It’s perfect for feeding ten or so folks (depending on the size of your birds) and leftovers make incredible chicken sandwiches. However, because of the special equipment needed (Beer Can apparatus and Smoker) I’ve never blogged about it.

Any old can filled with water works fine!

Through the years, I’ve taught, dozens–maybe even hundreds–of cooking classes to audiences. I loved it! It was great seeing the groups reaction to my methods while answering questions and then passing out samples of food.

But this time I’ll be talking to my iPhone. How lonely it will be not to see your faces.  Soon enough, I’ll have to adapt to the latest technology that will enable all of your faces to be on my screen.

Apple and hickory chips for chicken.

I’m wondering if technology will ever advance to the place where I can hack off a piece of chicken and present it to you via my hard drive? I wouldn’t be surprised.

But in the meantime, I’d love to extend an invitation to you to join the Blue Sky Book Chat.

By the way, I’ve found it a waste to squander perfectly good cans of beer when smoking these birds. I’ve tried it, and to my palate, it really didn’t enhance their flavor. Between the marinade, rub and smoke there’s enough going on.

The Cheat.

However, I love the technique of smoking the birds upright having the interior steamed by hot water in any old can. It seems to keep the birds moist. If you’d like to smoke chickens using this technique, this apparatus appears to be a good one. (The one I use is obsolete.)

Time saving trick: When hurried, I marinate birds in a bottled dressing and use a pre-made rub. Not as wonderful as homemade, but pretty dang good. That said, a rub is a wonderful vehicle for using up less-than-fresh spices!

Recipe: Hickory-Apple Smoked Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 cups marinade/vinaigrette (bottled dressing fine)
  • 2 Freezer Gallon-Sized Ziplock bags or large container
  • 2 (5-6 pound) chickens, giblets removed and saved for another use. Rinse birds. (OK if birds are larger; just adjust ingredients and smoke longer)
  • 1/4 cup, or more as needed, of rub (see below notes to make your own; commercial rubs fine)
  • Hardwood charcoal, as needed
  • 3-4 cups wood chips (I used a combo of apple and hickory)
  • 2, 12 ounce, cans of beer; half the liquid poured out and used to soak chips (See my notes above. These days I just use water.)
  • Beer Can Chicken Holder (see above link to purchase and below notes to do without.)
  • Smoker (I use a Big Green Egg)

Instructions

  1. Pour one cup each of marinade into two freezer gallon-sized Ziplock bags. (You may also marinate in a container large enough to accommodate the chickens.)
  2. Marinate, refrigerated, 24-48 hours, turning birds every 12 hours.
  3. Remove from marinade, pat birds dry, and sprinkle rub all over each bird with seasoning mixture, and then gently rub it in with your fingertips. Don’t forget to rub under the skin. Refrigerate an additional 3-6 hours.
  4. Soak two cups of wood chips in water for an hour. Remove birds from fridge and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or so. Prepare charcoal grill/smoker to a low, slow, even heat: 225-250 degrees. (Coals will be thickly ashed over. You should be able to hold the palm of your hand over them for a solid 12 seconds.)
  5. Fill 2 empty (12 ounce) cans 3/4 way full of water. (Season the water with additional rub, if desired.) Place cans in “beer can apparatus” (see above notes and pics.) Place the cavity of bird over beer can and tuck wing tips into the chickens back in the crease of the thigh.
  6. Place beer can apparatus on the center of prepared grill/smoker. Toss wood chips in between the grill grates, shaking off as much water as possible before tossing. Cover grill.
  7. Monitor grill temp to insure it maintains a steady, 225-250 temperature. Adjust air flow accordingly. After one hour, you may need to add additional coals. Using my Egg filled half-way with coals, I’ve never had to add more. However, my chickens seem to temp to the desired 175 degrees in 80 minutes, more or less. (The best way to gauge readiness is by using an instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Thigh meat should be enjoyed at 180 degrees, but it continues to cook an extra 5 degrees when removed from the grill. Don’t have a thermometer? If the drumstick wiggles easily at the joint, it’s likely ready. Take care not to overcook the chicken.)
  8. For a splashy presentation, you can serve to your guests atop the beer cans. but I refrain. I worry a can might topple, spilling the hot water. After five minutes at room temperature, using tongs, I carefully remove cans from birds. (Note that the water inside the cans is very hot and could scorch you.) I allow the chicken rest at room temperature an additional 10 minutes before carving or quartering to serve.

*It’s not essential to have an apparatus to hold the beer can in place but it makes the birds far more stable. To do without, hold the chicken with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom. Lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. Adjust the legs so the bird balances on the grill when smoking. *Make your own rub by combining 4 tablespoons each of brown sugar, sweet paprika, black pepper and Kosher salt. Then, stir in a tablespoon or garlic or onion powder. After that, I take a look at my spice rack and see if there are misc. herbs (Italian or Southwest family) to use up. I add a couple of teaspoons of those to the mix.

Marinate time: 24-48 hours

Rub sit time: 4-6 hours

Smoke time: Apx. 80 minutes, depending on the size of your chickens and interior smoke temperature. Monitor carefully.

Number of servings (yield): 8-12 SERVINGS, depending on appetites and the size of the birds.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Brooklyn & Manhattan: A Savory Rendezvous!

Alison and I met in an author chat room 2 years ago.

Last week, I was hosting a discussion in a chat room—Blue Sky Book Chat––about friendships and communities formed on-line. This was in the wake of a four-day food and book mash-up in Manhattan and Brooklyn with my son, Zan, and friend, Alison Ragsdale.

I met Alison–a Scot’s lass who has written several books set in her home country–two years back in a Facebook author chat room. We both were astounded that we shared so many common interests, and our friendship blossomed on-line.

Striped Bass over Lobster at THE GRAMMERCY TAVERN.

For me–perhaps for you, as well– prior to joining Facebook in 2008, the concept of forging friendships on the internet was foreign. To be honest, even a bit creepy.

Match.com had been founded nine years prior to Facebook, so (and this is solely my experience) meeting people on-line was synonymous with hookups and dating. A wonderful source if you’re single and searching, but the internet seemed dicey for simply finding pals with common interests.

The Queen of Manhattan Indies is Strand Bookstore. Zoom into this pic to see the books banned back in the day.

Whatever your feelings (or lack of) about social media, Facebook was a game changer for me. I’ve met hundreds of people on-line, particularly on this blog, who share my interests. Manhattan and Brooklyn—with their plethora of Indie bookstores and restaurants– were the perfect playgrounds for Alison and me to meet and romp.

We stayed at The Marlton in West Village, which once housed such notables as Edna St. Vincent Millay and Lillian Gish, who “cooked tinned things and tea” using a sterno lamp in her room in 1913. Jack Kerouac wrote a couple of novellas while holed up at the Marlton and Lenny Bruce stayed there during his six-month trial for obscenity in 1964.

Renovated in 2012, even today, it retains an off-beat vibe and their tiny jewel-box rooms and included breakfasts are exceptional. I spent Halloween, 2014, there with several friends and it was such a blast, I’ll  never stay anywhere else.  (See this post for details on that little adventure.)

Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers.

Another bonus about the hotel (I’m not getting a kickback) is  some great Indie Bookstores (Strand Bookstore, Printed Matter), the Chelsea Market and seriously fabulous restaurants are all within walking distance.

As if the West Village weren’t enough of a feast, one day we Ubered into Brooklyn. One could spend hours perusing shops in the Williamsburg area of Bedford Avenue alone. We loved Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers, specializing in used and rare books.  We continued down and around the bend to enjoy  drinks at William Vale Hotel (their view from the rooftop bar is unparalleled) and dinner at Oxomoco, where tacos are not just a taco. (see their menu).

Breakfast Option at the Marlton

Such a fabulous get-away but it was manna to return to relatively sleepy little Ann Arbor and my hubby, chirping birds the only sound to break our silence.

Want a taste of books, chatter and friendships forged on-line? Alison and I extend an invite for you to join our group in Blue Sky Book Chat. In celebration of a recent re-brand, all the authors will be giving away a ton of books and swag through June.

You don’t have to buy a plane ticket, just meet us online. Your sofa will do just fine! As always, happy to answer any questions about our trip or the chat room.

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Culinary Kenya!

The first thing my son asked me and Richard upon our return from Africa was, “What did you eat?”

The “Big 5” includes lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Cape Buffalo.

Not, “Did you see all of ‘The Big Five’ animals?“, or “Could you sleep knowing that lions were outside your tent?” No, nothing so pedestrian.

He was curious about our culinary options while we were on safari in Kenya and Tanzania. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Our safari guide, Matandeeka.

Let me set the record straight. We didn’t go there for the food. A top of the bucket-list trip, we went there to witness self-contained ecosystems where elephants, giraffes, monkeys, rhinos, zebras, hippos–just to get started–roam free.

On numerous photo-game drives, our savvy guide navigated us  through the great  parks in the Subsaharan, enabling us to glimpse how life may have looked before us humans arrived on the scene.

Lori’s and her conservation foundation, Amara, have spent the past 20 years engaging with Kenyans and helping them to preserve their environment.

African version of the American’s South, Meat and Three.

Another (more humbling) reason for this trip was to view Amara Foundation in action. The woman who spearheaded the foundation, Lori Bergman, is a good friend I met many years ago in Ann Arbor.

About eighteen years ago, she went on safari with her sister to Kenya. She returned to town, quit her job and  told us her plans were to engage with Kenyans to be of assistance in  preserving their amazing environment; to help eradicate, for instance, bush-meat and ivory poaching.

She moved to Kenya and founded Amara Conservation. The results of her efforts have been awe-inspiring. My Ann Arbor pals and I are so proud to be her friend. I could go on and on about her fascinating work, esp. in vulnerable Tsavo, but it’s all on her site.

But back to my son’s original question. What did we eat?

Aside from the heavy Indian influence of options (think dals, chapati, biryani) in Kenya, the typical offerings we enjoyed in Kenya and Tanzania transported me back to my childhood.

Having grown up in Alabama, what us Southerners  consider our heritage dishes were actually brought over via the Atlantic Slave Trade. For during the 16th through 19th centuries, with the slaves came their agricultural  practices and recipes.

Hop 'n John (Good Luck Pea Dish)

Hop ‘n John, a beloved Southern Rice & Pea Dish, had its roots in West Africa.

Yep. That lip-smacking Meat & Three found at every Southern diner worth its salt has it’s genesis with the roasted meats (Nyama Choma), sautéed collards (Sukuma Wiki), and an assortment of legume concoctions such as Beans and Corn (Githeri) served  in Africa. Let’s not forget the okra, black-eyed peas (I’m looking at you Hop ‘n John), peanuts and and a cornmeal staple (oh well, grits) on today’s typical African plate.

 

Uncomfortable to be sure that an enslaved people brought me my beloved soul-foods, at the very least I give credit where credit’s due. And the feasting continued upon our return to Ann Arbor.

Kenyan Fish Stew

Good friends, Terri and Frederic, hosted a dinner party upon our return featuring African fare (see lead picture). Terri made a delicious Swahili Seafood Stew.

She found the recipe online and for good reason the dish tasted so familiar; the recipe was crafted by a Kenyan chef.  It was superb (she used tilapia, a sub-Saharan staple), and I look forward to making it again before hot soup season disappears.

Other recipes we enjoyed–a colorful couscous salad and Apricot Chicken Stew— took their influence from Morocco. A cuisine unto its own, it does, at least, share the same continent (-: I took further license making a classic Indian Dal, which as I mentioned, was served throughout Kenya. Terri’s table was truly a melting pot of colorful and exotic flavors, like the great continent itself.

 Happy, as always, to supply travel or culinary details, if you desire! Happy Trails!

Education is key!

 

 

 

 

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