The Domek Family Chicken

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Domek Family Chicken Before Cooking
Now that you've finished off the last of those pesky Thanksgiving leftovers -- it's time to get back to some normal eating behavior, right? And, lucky for you, I've got a dish that is just about perfect for anytime of the year -- be it holidays or be it just a normal weekend.

There is no official name for this dish so I've taken the privilege of naming it the "Domek Family Chicken." I'll be honest with you. The "Domek" stands for a Sacramento gardener by the name of Andy Domek, whom I'm fortunate enough to work with at the State Capitol. Who says Democrats and Republicans can't get along? Andy's the Democrat. I'm the Republican. Which just goes to show that gardening blood may be thicker than political.

Rosemary Bush-Bird Back 40
We all agree on one point: This is one fine chicken. It's a beer can chicken type recipe -- but it's unlike any beer can chicken recipe I've run across before. I've also taken the advantage of modifying this recipe somewhat to add in some spices that are growing well -- perhaps too well I might add -- in the Bird Back 40.

That particular spice is featured above left. This is an "after" shot by the way. This was taken "after" I'd hacked this plant back to manageable proportions. It wasn't easy. It had grown across the sidewalk during an uncontrolled spring and summer growth spurt. Hacking it back took the better part of an afternoon. And while it looks rather sad right now -- don't be worried my friends. This plant will explode with new growth once next spring rolls around -- trust me.

Dried Rosemary Anyone?
How do I know this? Because this particular plant of the herb variety grows like a weed in the Sacramento area. By now you've probably guessed this "herb weed" is, in fact, rosemary. Half of North Natomas is landscaped with rosemary because it's so easy and cheap to grow. Its blue flowers yield tons of pollen for foraging bees. And rosemary with chicken goes together like vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. The two were made for one another.

The Domek Family Chicken recipe didn't originally call for rosemary. But I'll tell you this much -- it was one fine addition. It added a spiciness and flavor that really made this a unique meal. Another addition was the garlic. Not because I wanted it. Garlic was an absolute requirement.

If you've ever worked with rosemary before -- especially fresh rosemary -- you've come to learn that this is one tough herb to chop up. The leaves of the rosemary plant are incredibly tough. How tough? I've placed rosemary leaves stripped from woody stems into a standard food processor, flipped that switch on high speed, waited for 30 seconds and then shut it off only to find out that the rosemary leaves were still intact. They're extraordinarily tough to shred into tiny pieces.

Yet -- tiny pieces is what I needed.

But I've learned a trick during the rosemary preparation process. Combine those tough rosemary leaves with seven or eight cloves of garlic in a food processor set on high speed and something wonderful happens. Those rosemary leaves suddenly give up the ghost and can be shredded into tiny bits and pieces. An added plus is shredded garlic that sticks to the rosemary like glue.

Chopped Rosemary and Garlic
Just what I needed.

Andy's directions were fairly specific. Once all of the spices were mixed together, you were required to spread it generously all over every inch of the chicken. This included shoving quite a bit of this seasoning mixture UNDER the skin. This is no easy task because if the skin breaks during this process, well, it's tough to keep this mix from falling off the chicken and onto the grates of the barbecue below. So, please, do be careful.

If you've never cooked chicken in a beer can setting, there are some things you'll want to watch out for. First -- you'll have to find some way to open and drain off all that beer. It's a terrible thing, but someone's got to do it. If you happen to have a lot of spare herbs thanks to a well established herb garden like we do -- the next step is to cram as many herbs into that beer can as possible. The final step is to fill it back up -- about halfway mind you -- with a nice white wine like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.

Beer Can Chicken Roaster
If this means you have to open, and then finish, a bottle of wine -- well -- someone has to suffer. Might as well be you.

There are beer can chicken roasters that can be purchased at your local store like the one pictured, but I'll be honest, you don't really need one. It does make the transfer of the chicken to the can a little easier, but it's not absolutely necessary. To prepare the well-seasoned chicken for grilling, using Andy Domek's fine words of advice: "Place the cavity of the chicken over the beer can, tuck the wings behind the body and sit it up on the grill so it looks weirdly like it is lecturing you. Set your barbecue on low heat and roast for 60-70 minutes."

Another bit of added advice? Be armed with a well filled spray bottle and pay close attention to the chicken for at least the first 30 minutes as the barbecue will sometimes flare and we don't want to be setting our fine chicken friend on fire, now do we?

And now -- the recipe for Andy Domek's Famous Beer Can Chicken:

Andy Domek and a TURKEY???
1. Open a can of cheap beer (I personally am fond of the award winning beer out of Wisconsin -- Pabst Blue Ribbon).
2. Drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.
3. Shove some herbs inside the can -- I like a sprig or two of rosemary and fresh thyme. Fill can halfway back up with white wine.
4. Set aside.

Make a paste with:

1 tablespoon kosher salt.
½ tablespoon cinnamon
½ tablespoon ground ginger
½ tablespoon cumin
½ tablespoon turmeric
½ tablespoon coriander (optional—I like coriander so I add it)
1 teaspoon of black pepper
4-5 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves (dry is fine too)
4-5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon or lime

Directions: Chop rosemary and garlic together in food processor until it reaches a fine paste. Add together with salts, spices, olive oil and the juice of one lemon or lime. Mix well. Coat chicken with mixture, loosening and lifting skin to place spice mix directly on chicken.

Roast for one hour.

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