August 4th 2015
Not only is beer possibly the world’s greatest drink, it is also best friend to food. We all know about pairing wines with food, and many of us consider ourselves domestic sommeliers, however, matching beer and food is just as complex and rewarding a process and is gaining momentum not only commercially, but at home too.
When you have a beer as special as La Socarrada, all sorts of visions of what to pair it with dance through one’s head. Having been one of the most popular beers at the recent Borough Market Food Meets Beer Festival, the bold flavours of this Spanish beer captured the palates and imaginations of many people. It’s really encouraging to see folks thinking about food and beer in a more nuanced way. La Socoarrada, complete with the tagline “a beer for eating” from the brewery itself, is a golden ale brewed with rosemary and rosemary infused honey. It’s aromatic, fresh and pleasantly sweet. Not only does it lend itself to be the beverage of choice with succulent hunks of barbecued lamb, it makes for the perfect ingredient to cook with too.
Somewhat of a novelty, the beer can chicken – an American innovation whereby a chicken is placed on top of a can of beer and roasted -got a right poshing up last night, when we invented Can Poussin, using the delightfully herbaceous La Socarrada to place inside the bird. I was the brains behind this concept. It struck me when I first tasted this awesome beer, despite it not being in can format. The hands behind this meal, belong to none other than Boutique Bar Brands’ Co-Founder, Philip Harding, who is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen.
What is a poussin? Aside from delicious, a poussin is regarded as a chicken which is slaughtered at less than 28 days (sometimes known as spring chicken). Not only is poussin tender and juicy, it is economical. Coming in under £3 a bird, it serves two perfectly, so there is no waste.
- sea salt flakes
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 poussin
- unsalted butter (amount varies to your taste, so it’s best to just have a fresh block to play with)
- whole lemon
- 150ml can (buy a soft drink and keep the can)
- bottle of La Socarrada
1) Preheat your gas BBQ to approximately 200 degrees C. You will be roasting the poussin in here shortly.
2) Season the poussin with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, melt approximately 40g of butter with a squeeze or two of lemon juice. When melted, place the poussin in and brown off. You are not cooking the bird at this stage, you are just getting a nice colour to it. Whilst browning the bird, pour in a splash of La Soccarrada, and mix throughout the butter. Make sure you evenly brown the poussin. Don’t leave any soggy, fleshy bits. Leave the melted-butter beer sauce in the pan as you will need it later.
3) Having procured your small can, fill it almost to the top with the beer. Place on the BBQ and carefully lower the poussin onto the can. You may need to prop the bird up against something so it doesn’t tip over. It is a perfect fit with a 150ml slim can. Close the hood on the BBQ and let roast for about 20 minutes or so. Check to see what’s happening at regular intervals. Remember, this is a baby chicken and does not need nearly as long to cook through. Do not leave it too long otherwise it will dry out.
4) To make the gravy for the poussin, pour the rest of the bottle La Socarrada into the pan where the melted-butter beer is and reheat on low. Always taste as you cook to see if anything needs adjusting. Sometimes lemons can be super sour, and if this is the case you might want to compensate by adding a bit of honey or sugar to balance it out. Check if the gravy is seasoned enough. Remember you are using unsalted butter, so you may need to add some salt. It’s always better to cook with unsalted butter, as that way you are in complete control of the seasoning. 5) Once the poussin is cooked through, rest it for half its total cooking time (this is the rule for all joints of meat). Ten minutes should be about right. 6) Carve the poussin and dress with the gravy. Due to the steaming effect of the beer inside the bird, the flesh should be juicy and soft. You should taste subtle notes of rosemary and sweetness imparted by La Socarrada. Mmmmmm.
You can accompany this poussin with whatever vegetable dishes you like. We chose simple Mediterranean baked vegetables and pan-fried potatoes.
For the Med Veg, chop some tomatoes, aubergines, onions, peppers, lemon, garlic (or whatever you have) and place in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with vegetable oil and torn thyme and season well with salt and pepper. Slow roast in the oven for at least an hour on about 130 degrees C. You want the vegetables to be soft and almost gooey. This is a dish you can cook the night before you serve and simply reheat, as this way the flavours will develop.
For easy potatoes, simply dice into inch cubes, par-boil and then pan fry with salt and pepper. They are ready when they are golden.
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