Sunday, April 8, 2012

Beer Chicken and Potatoes with Salsa Verde

I've never liked the taste of beer. I have a high school friend who deemed it was like drinking “carbonated piss”, but ever since last summer, I found myself slowly enjoying the bubblyness and developed a newfound respect for pee beer.

A few weeks ago, we got a taste of summer—in March. It was sunny, blue skies, I even drove to work with the window all the way down, letting the warm air blast through my hair. As the temperature continued to rise, I switched on the air-con at home, which would have been effective if I didn’t cook coconut lentil soup for dinner. Apparently burning hot dishes are better left for a cold winter’s night.

I still don’t know the difference between the various families of beer/ale/lagers/pilsners and always look up each one on Wikipedia when curiosity strikes, but I do know one thing’s for sure, beer makes food, both sweet and savoury, taste freaking awesome


This beer chicken, adapted loosely from Laura Calder’s French Food at Home, is a fine example of how an ordinary can of an everyday beverage can convert you. It’s a simple recipe, so simple in fact, I bet you can do it blindfolded. All you need is chicken pieces (I used chicken thighs—I’m a dark meat kinda girl), wash and pat them dry, then tuck in some bacon and plenty (and I mean plenty) of garlic cloves between the skin and scatter it over the roasting pan. Pour beer over the pan and stick it in the oven for about forty-five minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. 

Trust me, fifteen minutes in, your home will smell like a garlicky bacony microbrewery. You will wonder what took you so long to make this dish. You will find it hard, excruciatingly painful even, to wait for the chicken to cook, because at this point, it will smell so damn good. The good news (I promise there’s always good news) is you can crack open the same beer and lounge on your balcony, enjoying the beautiful sunset while your dinner bubbles away in the oven. 

If you’ve ever had drunk chicken, this is what the meat tastes like with a distinct bitter flavour. The chicken is exactly how it should be, moist, tender, juicy, laced with sharp garlic and smoky bacon. I highly recommend you eat this double-fisted, with your elbows on the table, chewing loudly and with a second (or third, or fourth, why stop there?) glass of cold beer on the side--it's the only way.

The words salsa verde have always allured me, its fancy name slides off the tongue like a slick dance move. I used Molly’s recipe which is a slurry of lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, jalapeno and lots of raw garlic, drizzled over plain baby potatoes to give it a kick. It’s not only pretty, but the acidity brings out the brightness in the beer chicken. In other words: try it. If were like me and think beer tastes like fizzy piss, this might just change your mind.

Beer Chicken
Adapted from French Food at Home by Laura Calder

The original recipe calls for hen instead of chicken, but I couldn't be bothered and bought chicken thighs instead. Like I said, I'm no beer connoisseur and tried to look up a double malt beer as Laura had indicated in her book, but failed. I settled on whatever beer I had hanging out in the fridge, I used Grolsch with great results, so I think it's safe to say feel free to use your favourite beer.

Serves 4 

1 chicken (about 3 lbs), cut into 8 pieces. Alternatively, if you prefer dark meat, use 6-8 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
¼ lb strips of bacon, each cut into 4 pieces
1 branch of rosemary
2 cups beer, preferably double malt

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Rinse the chicken pieces under cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper and place in a single layer in a baking dish. Tuck in the garlic, bacon and herbs. Pour over the heat.

2. Bake 15 minutes. Turn the pieces over and back another 15 minutes. Turn again and bake 15 minutes longer. By now the meat should be cooked and sticky with caramelized sauce. If the sauce hasn’t boiled down quite enough, remove the chicken pieces and keep warm, pour the juices into a saucepan, and boil on the stovetop until you’ve got just enough left for sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces and serve. 

Salsa Verde
From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Serious research tells me salsa verde (also known as green sauce) is made with various ingredients depending on where it is served. In Italy for example, it is used as a condiment for dipping foods like meat, fish, or vegetables. Molly serves this with roasted cauliflower, but I think it goes well with baked potatoes too. Let your imagination run wild and use this sauce in any tasty way you like.

1 medium jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced with a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil


In a medium bowl, combine the jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before using.

Recipe here!

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