August 12, 2015

Every year we do a company cooking class during the summer when the farmer’s market produce is at its best. The impetus for the class came about as we eat our lunch together in the office and everyone loves to trade recipes. I decided that it would be fun to put together a dinner party with an ‘easy to learn’ menu to get people to try new recipes and hopefully feel more comfortable entertaining on their own. The menu always consists of a specialty cocktail, canapé, starter, entrée, and dessert. This year was deviled quail eggs, boozy barnyard chicken, heirloom tomato crostata, and a favorite summertime sipper – the spicy watermelon sugar! A few of the recipes are listed below. Cheers!


Watermelon Sugar

Serves 8

1 jalapeño, halved lengthwise

3/4 cup tequila blanco

2 cups 3/4′ cubes seedles watermelon

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

6 tablespoons Simple Syrup

1/4 cup mezcal or gold tequila

Scrape stems, seeds, and veins from jalapeño into a small jar (reserve green flesh for another use). Add tequila; cover and let infuse for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over a small bowl. Pour tequila through strainer and discard solids.

Place watermelon cubes in a large pitcher. Using a muddler or potato masher, coarsely crush watermelon. Stir in lime juice, Simple Syrup, mezcal, and jalapeño tequila. Stir in 2 cups ice. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Fill Old Fashioned glasses with ice. Divide cocktail among glasses and serve.


Boozy Barnyard Bird (Beer Can Chicken)

Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, approximately 4 to 5 pounds

4 tablespoons sweet paprika, or mild smoked paprika

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon chile de arbol or red-pepper flakes, or to taste

1 can beer, ideally yellow in hue, with the top half consumed or poured off

Build a fire in your grill, leaving approximately half the grilling area free of coals. If using a gas grill, turn burners to high and then, when ready to cook, turn off the burner on the side where you will place the chicken. If using an oven, heat to 425 degrees.

Remove neck and giblets from chicken. Rinse the chicken in cold water. Pat dry.

Combine all the spices in a large bowl, then apply the dry rub to the chicken, inside and out.

Put the beer can on a solid surface. Pick up the chicken and, taking a leg in each hand, put the cavity over the can and slide the bird down onto it. Carefully transfer the bird and the can to the cool side of your grill, its back to the fire, balancing the chicken upright and using the legs to support it in this position. If using an oven, place the chicken upright in a roasting pan using the same method and place carefully into the heat.

Cover the grill and cook for approximately 1 1/4 hours, basting with barbecue sauce twice during the final half-hour, until the breast meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer or until the legs are loose in their sockets. (If you’re using an oven, you can tent the bird with foil after 45 minutes to keep the skin from getting too dark.) De-can and carve.