Nothing quite says 4th of July -- and American independence from unreasonable taxation and those intrusive federal regulations -- like a chicken with a beer can stuck up its behind, roasting silently over wood charcoal.
There is no greater honor for a chef than to have his creation highlighted by the Tribune's Good Eating section. What's even more of an honor -- if possible -- is that the Tribune's savvy wine critic, Bill Daley, took the time to match fine wines with my humble bird in his own Wednesday column.
(But I may have insulted him by suggesting that beer and Dr Pepper are the best beverages for barbecue. Sorry, Bill.)
And those of you with a computer can watch an easy how-to-insert-can-and-cook video crafted by Tribune video master John Owens, in which you'll see how it's done. Just go to chicagotribune.com/beercanchicken.
Actually, I adapted Kass' Beer Can Chicken™ from a technique prized by American Southern rustics, who cook chicken on a beer can with plenty of heavy wood smoke, like hickory or apple wood. But that leaves the chicken looking and tasting like an old shoe.
Chicken is too delicate for smoking. So I removed the wood chunks and added lemon, oregano, salt and pepper and various secret Mediterranean spices, like Cavender's Greek Seasoning, which is made in Arkansas.
Not a week goes by that some anxious reader doesn't call or write in abject barbecue panic: "Please! Help! We've moved, and somehow, I lost your Beer Can Chicken recipe! Would you please send me a copy?"
If it's not an anguished cry for my recipe, it's a tip from outraged readers telling me that Williams-Sonoma or some other fancy-pants outfit is selling yet another ridiculously overpriced beer can chicken gadget, from which I receive not one thin dime.
Here's what you do: Fire up your computer, watch the video, read Good Eating and Daley. Then fire up your charcoal grill on the indirect method with a temperature of 260 to 300 degrees. Close the underneath vents by half when the coals are ready.
And don't forget to finish this column. Like any egomaniacal chef, I've held back an important feature. Today, I give it freely to loyal readers who haven't yet skipped over to Daley's column for the wine pairings.
A hoofta (an ancient Greek measurement) is the best way to apply spices for Beer Can Chicken or any other dish.
"You have to give exact measurements, such as a tablespoon, a teaspoon and so on. You can't tell readers to use a hoofta," Daley said. "What's a hoofta?"
Apparently, the Tribune's test kitchen was outraged by the hoofta anomaly. They sent Daley a note, shrieking, "Bill! We need specific measurements [not Kass' hooftas]!"
But let me tell you something. It's my column. And I'm using hooftas.
Please understand, my wine-sipping friends, that hoofta is the ancient Greek measurement for all accomplished chefs, from the late Julia Child to the writer Salman Rushdie's supremely sultry ex-wife, Padma Lakshmi, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, my wife, and me.
It may have all started when Catherine de Medici imported Greek chefs to Europe from Constantinople, as that great city fell to the Turks. She imported the chefs so fellow Florentines would finally have something tasty to eat. The Byzantine chefs wore those funny hats, now worn by French cooks, which you probably didn't know.
They didn't use silly gadgets, like tablespoons or Williams-Sonoma beer-can chicken roasters. They used hooftas.
A hoofta is the amount of spice that fits comfortably in your palm. There is also the half hoofta and the quarter hoofta.
Armed with this knowledge, now you can truly grasp my recipe. So after I soaked and rinsed the chickens -- gorgeous Bell and Evans free-range birds from Casey's Market in Western Springs -- and lemoned and oiled them up, I rubbed each with about two hooftas of Cavender's Greek Seasoning. Or, make your own rub with various hooftas of oregano, salt and pepper and garlic powder to taste.
For the Good Eating meal, my colleague Wings fixed rosemary potatoes. We had simple grilled asparagus and tasty Gary's Stuffed Pepper Treats -- jalapenos stuffed with chorizo, cheese, dates and wrapped in bacon. What wine goes with that?
As for Kass' Beer Can Chicken™, it's best that you follow my instructions. Use hooftas. And cook over wood charcoal, adding coals if necessary, though you can do this in an oven too.
With a grill, cover and wait. Some 75 minutes to 90 minutes later, depending on the size of the bird and the heat of the fire, when the juices run clear, you'll have a chicken fit to serve the president of the United States on the 4th of July.
Isn't one of his chefs named Kass too?