This week's column is a “two-for-one” special, with the cauliflower dish being an original “on the spot” creation when we needed a good side for the chicken.
While the main entree is usually the center of
attention, the cauliflower dish pushed its way in and became the star of the show.
I had purchased cauliflower but wasn't sure how I wanted to prepare it. My wife, Liz, suggested I smoke it so that she could create a smoked cauliflower mash. Smokey mashed cauliflower? Sounded good to me! But, let's start with the beer can chicken.
I decided to use a roaster chicken, which is a more mature hen that has typically been a free range bird.
Hens are bigger, and have more flavor. As a bonus, the leftover carcass is fantastic for soups and broths, much better than the smaller “friers,” which are younger chickens. You can freeze the bones after carving for future use.
Set up the grill for indirect heat, which means to place hot coals on one side of your grill. I use a hickory log to hold the coals in one corner, which means I don't need to sprinkle the coals with wood chips. I used a Guinness beer that we had on hand which unfortunately was bottled, not canned.
This is only unfortunate when one wants a can on which to place a chicken. So I dug out a contraption that I
rarely use, a stand meant specifically for beer can chicken. Fill the middle container with beer, slide
the butt end of the hen onto the container and prop it up with its legs on the cool side of the grill.
In this case, the hen was touching the lid of the grill, so I placed a piece of aluminum foil on top of the
chicken. (If you happen to have canned beer, open it, drink half, and slide can into bottom end of chicken.)
Rub the hen down with poultry rub before putting it on the grill. Now, onto the masterpiece.
Take a head of cauliflower and cut it up into bite-sized pieces. Add one small onion, peeled and cut
into eight pieces. Wash three small potatoes and rub in olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place
the cauliflower and onion in a medium-sized bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and
place in a grill pan (a vegetable pan with holes in it.)
Place the potatoes on the grill opposite the coals
and put the lid on. After 30 minutes, place the pan of cauliflower and onions on the grill opposite the
coals and place the lid back on. Allow to smoke another 45 minutes.
Once the potatoes and cauliflower are fork tender, bring them inside. The cauliflower will have a light brown color to them. By now, the hen should be done too. (The hen is ready when the thigh portion registers 160 degrees.) Cut the potato into small pieces, leaving the skin on. Place with onion and cauliflower in a large bowl. Smash with a potato masher. These aren't “whipped,” they are “smashed,” so you want some texture.
Now, add the following ingredients.
• 6 oz. cream cheese
• 1/3 stick of salt-free butter
• 1/3 cup half and half
• 1/3 cup of skim milk
• salt and pepper to taste
Place the mixture in a pan on the stove over medium-low heat and warm through stirring until the cheese and butter are fully incorporated. You should taste the smokiness in every bite, and the cauliflower will add a light flavor and texture to the dish compared to straight smashed potatoes.
You can view the videos I just uploaded to YouTube by going to www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay.
Once you get there, search for “cauliflower” and for “beer can chicken” in the search box.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.