Getting back out into nature over the past couple of weeks has been exhilarating for Adam and I.
We’ve been white water rafting, hiking, swimming, and enjoying what Georgia has to offer. Aside from the 90 + degree heat. After a long walk through the woods on Saturday,
we planned to cook a veritable feast. I never go anywhere without my handy list-making book, so I scrawled down the ingredients we would need to quench our thirsts and excite our palates simultaneously while we rode back to the city.
On the menu: Beer Can Chicken with Turtle Bend Collard Greens and Bulgar Wheat Salad with TB Zephyr Squash, Snow Peas, Carrots, and Pine Nuts with a Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette. Ambitious, you say? Yes, it was…but it was our big Saturday night fun. So, we made a date of it.
As you might imagine, Beer Can Chicken starts with beer. Which, on a 96 degree day, is just what the doctor ordered. If you happen to be a non-embiber, you can certainly utilize the same method with a can of Coke or Ginger Ale.
Now, you may have seen this trick performed by some old school barbecue cats on TV- that’s where I first saw it. And I am soooo glad that I did. This is some the most juicy, tender, flavorful chicken I have ever eaten in my life.
Here’s how it all begins…
We made a spice rub using a few simple ingredients. Paprika, lemon pepper, cayenne, dried mustard, and salt and pepper. After rinsing the chicken and patting it dry, we rubbed the seasoning all over the outside of the skin and inside of the cavity.
You gotta drink about one third of the beer in your can, and then add about 1 – 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to the can. The seasoned liquid steams the chicken from the inside out.
Next, you basically stand up your chicken and slide him right onto your beer can. You have to manhandle it a little bit to work it out.
But it’s not difficult. They sell fancy stands to hold up your beer can chicken, although we’ve never used one. The chicken sits pretty sturdy on its own.
Behind the chicken you see a little pouch of foil. It’s filled with a handful of mesquite wood chips that Adam soaked in water for 20 or 30 minutes. The purpose of the wood is to impart a wonderful, subtle smoky flavor to the meat. The chicken is set on the side of the grill away from the charcoal to allow it to cook over indirect heat. The temperature you want to maintain is about 325 – 350 degrees. Just put down the lid and let the magic happen.
Back in the kitchen, I was tending to the collards. (Woah. I have truly become a domesticated southern woman. So bizarre.)
I sliced the bacon into strips
and spread it out in a layer along the bottom of my largest pot. You want to start out with a cold pot and allow the bacon to begin cooking as the heat rises.
I removed the ribs from my collards, cut each leaf in half lengthwise and then made ribbons.
I added about 6 cloves of minced garlic to the party.
Yes, the smell in there was unbelievable! And then I stirred in my collards and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Next, I added 1/2 Cup of sugar and 1/2 Cup of red wine vinegar.
Lastly, I poured in about 8 cups of homemade chicken broth and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Again, I closed the lid and let the magic happen.
Next up was my buglar wheat salad.
I wanted to showcase my zephyr squash from the farm. So, I cut it in half, tossed it in some EVOO and salt and pepper,
and grilled it for a few minutes on each side.
And look what was happening on the grill!
Oh- small addition to the grill festivities- new pouch of foil = head of garlic roasting away for our dressing.
It was important to me to maintain the texture of the squash- mushy squash is not permissible. So that was a quick job.
Aw yeah. I diced those beauties into little cubes of goodness.
The bulgar wheat takes no time at all, really.
A little olive oil and garlic,
and one cup of bulgar wheat. I stirred it for a minute, and then added 2 cups of water. I brought it up to a quick boil, reduced the heat and let it simmer
until the liquid was absorbed. Then I moved it to a large bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, the collards were becoming righteous.
We tasted them and added a bit more sugar to round out the flavor. I’d say this pot cooked for about an hour before all was said and done.
Our chicken was cooked to perfection (165 degrees on an internal meat thermometer) after about an hour and needed to rest a while before we pulled it apart.
The skin was every bit as divine as it looks. I’m wiping the corner of my mouth.
You could slice your chicken, if you like. We just used our hands – it is barbecue after all!
So, it was time to complete our salad. I blanched the snow peas quickly in boiling water
and then plunged them into a bowl of ice water and sliced them into thirds. I knew they would provide great crunch for the salad. But you could totally substitute any veggies you have on hand- broccoli would work well here too.
We grated a carrot and added some rich toasted pine nuts to the bowl.
The dressing was a combination of roasted garlic (about 6 – 8 cloves), 2 cloves fresh garlic, the juice of a lemon, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, a squeeze of local honey, and salt and pepper.
Adam whirred that together in our mini-food processor too quickly for me to snap photos. It really only takes a minute to make your own fresh, healthy, light, flavorful dressings.
We drizzled that over our salad ingredients, tossed it all together, and it was time to plate!
Oh, if only this photo could translate the flavor and textures of summertime that danced in my mouth. Ho-ly cow. The collards were the best I have ever cooked, a perfect combination of sweet, salty, and tangy- not a hint of bitterness left. I could still appreciate each leaf – they weren’t mushy or bland in any way. Huge success. The nuttiness of the bulgar wheat really surprised and delighted me. The squash was sweet and lovely, and the peas performed their crunching duties with gusto. Every bite of that salad was exciting. And oh, the chicken. LOVE. Smitten. Unbelievably luscious. I know- I’m talking about chicken here, but it was out of this world. Even the next day, and the next day. Leftovers from this meal have rocked!!!
Now, I don’t expect you to walk into your kitchen and recreate all of these dishes in one day. I mean you totally could…but it’s no thirty minute meal! Adam and I were feeling a serious amount of zeal when we embarked upon this cooking extravaganza. We’re food dorks like that. That being said, I do encourage you to make each of these dishes at some point though, and enjoy the freshness of the season. Hang out by your grill, with your friends, family, your honey, or just y-o-u- and treat yourself to the wonders of the char. Eat locally grown, seasonal produce whenever you possibly can get your hands on it. The difference in flavor and quality will truly enhance your eating experience.
And to all you Turtle Benders out there, I hope you are soaking up every last bit of the bounty that comes in that big, brown bag each week! What a lucky crew of well-fed people we are!!!
Happy cooking and eating to you,