Sunday, April 19, 2009

Paving My (Well-Traveled) Road To Hell

The kids are away this weekend.  My daughter snagged an invite to birthday beach party in Charleston.  My son is testing his freshly healed and reconditioned rotator cuff by sea kayaking at a another Charleston beach.  And no, neither has any concept how lucky they are.  (Truly, what did you do with your weekends growing up?  Getaways to the most beautiful beaches in America -- where we visited just last weekend?  Or chores?  Me, too.)

Naturally, when friends hear that I'm kid-free for 48 hours, they can't prevent themselves from asking, "Whatever will you do with all that free time?"

Umm.  Hmm.  Well.  I suppose I could clean out that coat closet.  It'd be nice to be able to close it without a strength training class.  My daughter's jewelry-making beads seem to have spilled across the tile floor in the sunroom.  Someone should definitely take care of that.  And given that the coming week holds, at a minimum, three baseball games, two baseball practices, two music lessons, a school concert, a Scout meeting, a parent meeting and a doctor's appointment, a smart single mom would use this time to stash a few meals in the fridge and freezer.

My high school English teacher used to admonish, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Given that my relationship with project due dates and term paper deadlines at that time could best described as an open relationship, I was a frequent recipient of this cautionary tale.  I'd cringe as she delivered the message.  And I was conflicted:  Did I feel guilty?  Or worried that she might be fired for using such language?  She was a good teacher.  I would've missed her.

But now, it's already Sunday afternoon.  My son's about to return, and his sister will be on his heels.  The closet's still choked, the beads sprawled, the meals unmade.  What did I do this weekend?

Nothing, I guess.  But wait.  I did laugh for nearly four solid hours Friday night.  I got together with some work friends from 15 years ago, who are among the wittiest, quickest, most self-deprecating storytellers I know.   As one friend pointed out, the punchline to nearly every story was, "Needless to say, we didn't get that account."  I guess you had to be there.  I wasn't quite to the point of tears streaming down my cheeks.  However, I may have identified a new marketing angle for Depends.

I was still smiling -- and occasionally laughing out loud -- Saturday morning.  I guess that's when the rest of the weekend went to hell.  (I'm not a high school English teacher, so I can use that language.)  I got my hair cut.  I Facebooked.  I drank wine.  I watched an indulgent chick flick.  OK.  Actually, I watched two, but fell asleep during the second.  I already knew that Meg Ryan figures out, in the end, that it was Tom Hanks all along.

Sunday morning, I was still smiling.  I planted more herbs to supplement the ones that didn't succumb to the freezing temps and hail of a week ago.  I shopped.  Sure, I did a couple of household maintenance things, but nothing I want to brag about.

And I'm still smiling.  More important, I don't feel guilty.  Scientists insist that laughter is good medicine.  If so, I'm pretty darn healthy this weekend.  To welcome the kids home, I'm going to make something that always makes them smile, "Beer Butt Chicken."

The name alone does it, right?

Plus, it's always good, always juicy, and is guaranteed to start our meal off with a smile.

I'll get to the closet, the beads and the meals.  It's not as if I'm still in high school.  But for tonight, we're going to smile and laugh and enjoy being back together.

Beer Butt Chicken
Truly, the name is a bit of a misnomer, as you can replace the beer with Coke, for that matter, and it's still really good.  And I think most people refer to it as "Beer Can Chicken" anyhow.  But right now, I'm going with what makes me smile!

1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs.)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon (about) fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon (about) fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 additional cloves of garlic, peeled
1 sprig of rosemary
1 can of cold beer

Preheat the grill.  You'll be cooking the chicken on "indirect" heat.

On a cutting board, using a chef's knife, "cut" together the spices, the lemon zest and minced clove of garlic.  You'll end up with a "rub" which you'll use on the chicken.  Make sure to rub it in well, over the entire chicken, including under the skin.  As you're rubbing the seasoning under the skin, try to loosen the skin as much as possible from the bird, which will improve the browning and crisping of the skin.

Drink the top off the beer.  The can should now be about 2/3 full.  Drop in the additional garlic and rosemary.
Taking care not to spill it, put the beer can in the chicken's, ahem, cavity.  Position the chicken, standing up on the beer can, over indirect heat, on the grill.  Tuck the wings behind the bird, so they don't splay out.  Use the chicken legs to make sure everything balances.

Close lid and cook for about one hour or until done (when juices run clear).

Let rest 10-15 minutes before carving.
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