Bless Your Spoon: What’s up? Chicken butt!

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

I need a bumper sticker that warns, “I brake for yard sales.” Seriously.

I hit the jackpot on a Saturday morning after stopping at the home of Joan Dibbert off West Innes Street in Salisbury.

Joan and her daughter Julie welcomed me as I briefly scanned the sale, making a mental inventory of some cool stuff. I assured the ladies there was nothing I was looking for and nothing I needed. On top of that, I carried no cash. Even so, the yard’s sale sign had compelled me to stop and browse. Die-hard estate sale seekers share a favorite quote that supports the quest: “Buy the dress, and the party will come.”

“If you see anything you like, you can have it.”

That was generous. Joan and Julie were ready to pack up. Nevertheless, I was sure I’d be going home empty-handed. But then I picked up a square, stainless-steel device.

“What’s this thing for?”

Long story short, the tray makes a recipe called Beer Butt Chicken — the cooking tray holds a regular-sized beer can, and you slide a small, whole chicken down over the can. I’ll admit, it sounded a little over the top.

With a name like Beer Butt Chicken, who could resist such a fortuitous find? I would have to make it. So off I went — with a beer and chicken cooker under one arm and a large, glass, party drink dispenser under the other. A cook’s bounty — kitchen treasures.

The recipe for the chicken is one that Joan submitted for her family’s cookbook, a book chocked full of family favorites. Photos of Joan’s parents grace the cookbook’s cover. Her nieces had the recipe books printed for one of their big family reunions, held every 5 years or so. Part of a large family, Joan and over 200 other family members attend the reunions.

Joan grew up in Randolph, Nebraska — back then a town of only 1,000 folks. They lived on a farm and raised all their own meat, grew their vegetables, milked their own cows and made butter. Her dad did all the farming, but her mom worked hard, also. Back then, everyone grew their own food. Her parents bought the land from her mother’s father and built their own farmhouse. The couple also helped build their local church and it’s still there. Joan and her 12 siblings were born in the same bedroom at home, not in a hospital.

Joan’s mother taught all the girls in the family how to cook. She still remembers the great soups her mother made from beans and peas that came from their garden. Back in those days, growing up Catholic, the family couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. Instead, they ate lots of beans, potatoes and onions.

Going to town every Saturday night, Joan could see a movie that cost 10 cents at the time, and she worked selling popcorn. “I got to see a movie and a bag of popcorn and 50 cents. That was my wages.”

Having lived off West Innes Street in Salisbury since 2005, Joan is now 80. She’s worked in various fields, from cleaning homes to running her own restaurant. She retired from her last job at Harris Teeter after working for 6 years in the deli and as a baker.

“I’m proud of it, I’m 80 and still able to take care of myself.”

Joan attends Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury. She gave credit where due, saying it was her parents who “taught us the values of hard work and honesty. And being true to your faith.”

What has made the writing of my column “Bless Your Spoon” so rewarding are the people that God has put in my path along the way, like Joan. Good people. The givers. The generous and kind type of folks.

Beer Bread

• 3 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

•3 tsp. baking powder

•1 cup sugar

•1 tsp. salt

•12-ounce can beer

In a mixer bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt while alternating with beer. Mix well. Pour into a well-greased/floured loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until tests done. Use any brand of beer — the cheaper the better. Great as toast served with flavored butters and preserves. Makes great sandwich bread.

Joan’s Beer-Butt Chicken

1 whole 4-pound chicken

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 Tbsp. garlic salt

1 regular can plain beer

Wash chicken and pat dry. In a bowl, combine seasoning and salt. Rub half of the seasoning on the outside of the chicken. Open the beer can and drink half of the can. (And who said cooking can’t be fun?) Add the remaining seasoning to the can of beer. Place beer can in center of baking dish. Set chicken upright and slide it down on top of beer. Bake uncovered in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 2 hours or until done. Do not use bottled beer, lagers or any brewery-type beer. Larger chickens will take longer to cook. Find small-sized beer cans at convenience stores.

Lemon ‘n Beer Bundt Cake

4 beaten eggs

1 box Duncan Hines lemon cake mix

1 small package instant lemon pudding mix

1 cup regular beer

¼ cup Wesson vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add cake and pudding mixes while alternating with beer, vegetable oil and extract. Mix well. Bake in a well-greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until tests done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out. Ice with a sweet lemon glaze.

Pot Roast in Beer

• 3 large sliced onions

• Salt and pepper

• 1 pot roast

• 1 package onion soup mix

4 sliced carrots

4 sliced celery stalks

1 tsp. thyme

2 bay leaves

2 12-ounce cans of beer

Make a day ahead. In a lightly greased Dutch oven, spread bottom with sliced onions. Season pot roast with salt and pepper and place on top of onions. Add the remaining ingredients in order given. Cover and cook in a preheated 350-degree oven for 2½ -3 hours. Slice when cold. Allow slices to marinate until reheated. Serve with buttered noodles.

Beer-Butt BBQ Grilled Chicken

2 whole 4-pound chickens

2 Tbsp. paprika

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp, oregano

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. red pepper

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 12-ounce cans beer

1 small chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

In a bowl, combine paprika, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Open beer cans and remove half the beer from each can. Then stuff each beer can with half the chopped onion and 1 clove of garlic. Place 2 beer cans in a baking dish. Place 1 chicken over each can and slide down until legs are at the bottom of the pan. Place on a grill with coals to the side and chickens in the middle. Cover and cook for about 2 hours. Larger chickens will take longer to cook. — From Joan’s family cookbook.

Sauerkraut and Beer Sheet Cake

• 2/3 cup softened, salted butter

1 ½ cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Hershey’s cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup beer

¾ cup drained, squeezed sauerkraut

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, thoroughly beating between each addition. Add flour, cocoa, soda, powder and salt while alternating with beer. Fold in sauerkraut that has been rinsed with water, drained well, and all moisture squeezed out. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 13 x 9 baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until tests done. Cover with cream cheese frosting.

Cheesy Beer Soup

5 Tbsp. salted butter

½ cup chopped yellow onions

¼ cup chopped carrots

5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 regular can beer

1 pound grated cheddar cheese

½ tsp. dry mustard

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp. Texas Pete

1 cup evaporated milk

Texas Pete

In a skillet, melt butter and sauté onions and carrots. Blend in flour until paste forms. Add chicken broth and beer to the flour a little at a time while stirring between additions until blended. Add cheese, dry mustard and paprika with the cheese. Continue to stir until well blended and smooth. Fold in the milk and stir until smooth. Add hot sauce to taste, if desired. Serve with vegetable crackers.

Cinnamon-Raisin Beer Bread

3 cups self-rising flour

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

12-ounce plain beer

½ cup brown raisins

½ cup chopped walnuts

In a mixer bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon while alternating with beer. Mix well. Fold in raisins and walnuts and mix well. Bake in a greased loaf pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Makes delicious sweet bread.

Beer-Battered, French-Fried Rings

12-ounce beer, flat

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. salt

Additional all-purpose flour

Rings of onion

Crisco shortening

In a bowl, pour beer in a bowl ahead of time and allow to go flat. In another bowl, combine flour, paprika and salt. Combine the flour mixture with the flat beer and beat until frothy. In another bowl, add just flour. Separate onion into rings. Dip each ring into bowl of flour and then dip into the flour batter mixture to coat it. This can be used with other vegetables as well. Can be used all at once or covered and refrigerated for up to a week. In a skillet, heat Crisco until it melts and is hot. Fry each piece in the oil and turn from one side to another, frying until both sides are golden.