As the clouds of spring finally part and the rain begins to dry, you can smell summer hanging in the air. It comes in breezes of cut grass and gun powder from an early firework. However, nothing says summer quite like the smell of a grill smoking up some dinner for family and friends. Toss in a cooler full of drinks and a game of horse shoes and you have a good old fashioned cookout.
But cookouts in the summer are as plentiful as fireworks in July, so you need to make sure yours stands out. While there are plenty of ways to make sure your guests remember who threw the wildest cookout of the year (pony rides, celebrity appearances, a new television give-away), one of the simplest ways is having unforgettable – and unique – menus. As you may have guessed, we have a couple of suggestions. Coincidentally (or maybe not) they both involve a little alcohol.
Our first suggestion is a staple in the great American barbecue: Beer Can Chicken. The great debate with this classic is whether or not the beer is a contributing factor to taste. Some say you can use water because the steam is all that matters, but we say you should probably like the beer because you’ll be drinking the other half of the can.
Also, another tip for this dish: Find a metal support made specially for this dish. Check any stores with grilling supplies (Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc…).
Beer Can Chicken (via Bobby Flay of The Food Network)
Cook time: 1 hour Yields: 4 Servings
2 cups mesquite or apple wood chips, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 (3 to 4-pound) roasting chicken, preferably kosher (since it has been brined)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of your favorite dry spice rub recipe, divided
1 (12-ounce) can beer
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Prepare a kettle grill with charcoal off to one side for indirect grilling and add the soaked apple wood or mesquite wood chips over the coals. Remove the neck and giblets and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Brush chicken all over with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and 3 tablespoons dry rub. Set aside.
Open the beer can, pour out about 1/2 cup of the beer into a cup and drink it (or pour it over the wood chips). Make an extra hole in the top of the can with a church-key can opener. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon dry rub to the beer can (it might fizz up a little bit at the top, but don’t worry, that is normal), the garlic and rosemary.
Hold the chicken above the can of beer and slide the chicken over the can. Fold the wings back behind the chicken. Make sure the legs are in front of the can, supporting the chicken. Place the chicken inside a disposable pan.
Place the pan on the grates of the grill on the opposite side of the charcoals, put lid on and cook the chicken until golden brown and the internal temperature registers 160 degrees F in the breast area and 175 degrees F in the thigh area on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the grill (be careful not to spill the contents of the beer can as it will be very hot) and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Use a pair of locking tongs and grab the bottom of the beer can to remove from the chicken cavity. Place on a platter or cutting board to rest and cool. Carve and serve.
Our second recommendation is Bourbon Chicken. While this isn’t as traditional as a hotdog or burger, it is certainly a good go-to (it’s basically a barbecue chicken dish). The amount of ingredients for this dish may look intimidating, but fear not. We promise this dish is easy and sure to please.
Cook time: 30 minutes Yields: 4 servings
Bourbon Chicken (via Bobby Flay of The Food Network)
Sixteen Spice Rub:
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons pasilla chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon chile de arbol
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup bourbon, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
3 bone-in, skin-on breasts
3 bone-in, skin-on thighs
3 bone-in, skin-on legs
1/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the rub: Whisk all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.
Make the bbq sauce: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of the bourbon and cook until reduced. Add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into a bowl, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow to cool at room temperature. The sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.
Heat the grill to medium heat. Brush the chicken with the 1/4 cup of oil and season on both sides with the spice rub. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken slowly, with the lid closed, until golden brown on both sides and fat has rendered. Begin brushing the chicken liberally with the bbq sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling.
Arrange on a serving platter and serve.
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