Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Supper: Roasted 'Beer' Chicken, Smashed Potatoes, Green Beans with Almonds and Rhubarb Upside-Down Mini Cakes

For Sunday Supper this week, six of us gathered around the table and enjoyed some really great food and even better company. I was particularly happy to have my grandmother join us. She has recently been put on an oxygen tank full time and feels rather confined to her home as a result of “being tied to a leash”. Her words, not mine. It was lovely to have her at our table. My grandfather recently passed away and although I have always been very close to my grandparents and have always cherished my time with them, I find the visits with Nanny particularly sweet these days. For dinner this week we sat down to enjoy some Roasted ‘Beer’ Chicken, Smashed Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans with Almonds and Upside-down Rhubarb Mini-Cakes. Deeelish!

We’ve made ‘Beer Can’ chicken several times and always loved it, but one day while I was admiring our little bird perched on that can sizzling away it occurred to me 'what kind of chemicals are in that beer can that I have shoved up our dinner??'  First of all I know that the paint on the can cannot be good for you and to make matters worse I was using a can of Guinness and for any of you that have ever opened a can of Guinness you’ll know that they have a widget inside which is essentially a plastic ball.  The light bulb had just gone off.  This was one of those moments in ones life when things get quiet…time stands still….you find yourself panic stricken and all you can think about is 'what the he** were you thinking!?!'  I had been using paint and plastic to cook our dinner!  I use glass food storage containers to limit the contact our food has with plastic, I use stainless steele or ceramic beverage containers so the plastic doesn’t leach into our drinks, but cooking with plastic and paint…yeah, that one slipped by me.  So that was the end of Beer Can Chicken for us.   Or so I thought.  I had seen several other ‘roaster’ type contraptions for doing a vertical chicken on the grill but none of them offered a container to hold liquid and really, without that what was the point?  The best part of Beer Can Chicken is how moist the meat ends up as a result of the liquid evaporating into the chicken.  Then one day during one of my regular visits to Williams-Sonoma I found this ingenious product!  A Single Vertical Chicken Roaster (with cup for liquid).  Happy day!  I am able to add the beer (minus the carcinogenic can) as well as herbs, garlic or whatever else your little heart desires into the cup in the center of the pan, slip the chicken over and viola!  A perfectly moist, chemical free bird!  I’m not big on having a million kitchen gadgets or 101 pots and pans but this roaster is a must have for me.

Roasted ‘Beer’ Chicken

1 Roasting Chicken (preferably free range)
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme, plus 1 small bunch
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary, plus 1 sprig
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup of beer or wine
2 garlic cloves, gently crushed


Preheat your grill to medium-high.

Rub chicken lightly with oil then rub inside and out with salt, pepper and herbs. Set aside.

Pour the beer in the roaster cup along with the garlic, bunch of thyme and rosemary sprig. Transfer the bird to your grill and place in the center of the grate. Cook the chicken over medium-high, indirect heat (i.e. no coals or burners on directly under the bird), with the grill cover on, for approximately 1 1/4 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F in the breast area and 180 degrees F in the thigh, or until the thigh juice runs clear when stabbed with a sharp knife. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The herbs in our garden are in full bloom!  Our chives are already adorned with their fuzzy purple tops and seem to be making their way into almost every meal!

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes

2 lbs fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chopped chives
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup warm milk
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 heaping tablespoon of garlic puree, * recipe below


Place potatoes in pot. Cover with cold water. Add pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and transfer back to pot. Smash with potato masher. Add butter, sour cream and milk.  Stir in chives and season with salt and pepper.

* Garlic Oil & Garlic Puree

This is a great recipe two fold!  One you get some outstanding garlic oil which is incredible over just about anything and you get the softest, creamiest, juiciest garlic which you can whiz into a puree.   Below is a recipe for a really small batch, however if you’re like me and like to slather the garlic puree on everything then you can do a large batch like I did.  Simply take as much garlic as you like, place the garlic in a saucepan, cover  with grapeseed oil (olive oil with burn) and simmer it on low for 45 minutes.  Once done, remove the garlic from the oil and whiz it about in a food processor.  The puree will last several weeks in the fridge.  Reserve the oil.

1 head garlic, peeled
½ cup grapeseed oil

Place garlic and olive oil in pot on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Once done, remove the garlic from the oil and puree.  Pour the oil into a container for storage.

There was good news and bad news when shopping for this meal.  The good news was that we were able to get our hands on some of the areas first green beans!  Bridget absolutely loves green beans prepared this way so she was thrilled to see her old friends back again.  The bad news however is that although we are welcoming the first green beans of the season we are now saying goodbye to rhubarb for the year.  I had my heart set on a rhubarb dessert and I actually had to go to three different markets to find the last bit of rhubarb to be found.  Bitter sweet I suppose.

Green Beans with Almonds

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
½ cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons butter
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Fill a large pot three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process (The beans can be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance, covered tightly and refrigerated until ready to use.)

In a large fry pan over medium heat, toast the almonds, stirring continuously, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. You really can’t take your eyes off them, they’ll start to burn before you know it.  Once slightly toasted set aside.

In the same pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the beans, stirring continuously, until heated through about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the almonds. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately.

This is a wonderful recipe that really allows the rhubarb to be the star of the show.  It’s super simple and was such a lovely way to end the rhubarb season.

Rhubarb Mini-Cakes
By: Dee Gibson, Gibson & Lyle, Caterer, LCBO

These cute cakes are baked in a muffin tin to create individual desserts for your guests. You may substitute the rhubarb for peach or apple with the same great results.

½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
¾ cup (175 mL) white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups (500 mL) chopped rhubarb
1¼ cups (300 mL) brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F

Beat butter and sugar until creamed (pale white color), about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time until well blended, add vanilla. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.

Butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

In each muffin tin distribute evenly the chopped rhubarb and 1½ tbsp (22 mL) brown sugar. Place 1 heaping tbsp (15 mL) of the batter in each tin. Place in oven and bake about 40 minutes, or until light golden on top. Cool and turn out.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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