Anyone who knows me is aware of my aversion to the real world. I know I live in it, and I’m aware of what happens in it — all too well, I feel sure, given my life experiences, which have not always been rosy — but I prefer to persevere ignorant of the minutia of daily suffering. Lolita is hardwired to sink into the clinical blues, and often thinks speeding busses and steep cliffside drops look appealing when said blues have taken a hold of her heart — but she’s learned how to cope. How, you ask, does one cope with depression? Why – through Cartoon Network, of course! (And drugs. Copious amounts of drugs. And therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.) I started watching cartoons instead of the news 15 years ago, and the noble Claytonious has followed suit: both of us are perpetually happier than we ever had been before “Pokemon” and “Teen Titans” took the place of Katie Couric and CNN. From great cartoons come great inspirations – and the new Looney Tunes show on Cartoon Network has been a treasure trove of food-related delight! From Speedy Gonzalez’s “Queso Bandido” to Elmer Fudd’s “Grilled Cheese” — this new show showcases cartoon food and merry melodies in side-splitting videos I’ve now started seeking out. Tonight’s inspiration has this little guy to thank:
You remember Chickenhawk, dontcha? This diminutive bruiser has an unrelenting hankering for Foghorn Leghorn’s succulent chicken flesh, and Barnyard Dog serves as his back-up singer in a video I fear I can’t post, lest Ted Turner hunt me down for copyright infringement. The song is, of course, all about eatin’ chicken:
Barnyard Dog (falsetto singsong): Chickenhawk’s getting hungry; Chickenhawk’s getting hungry!
Chickenhawk (in rap:): I want some chicken… to eat. It is my favorite meat. I like it crispy, or glazed, it puts me in a daze. I like it fried up, or baked; for my birthday I eat CHICKEN CAKE!
Barnyard Dog (falsetto singsong): Chickenhawk’s not a chicken. He’s just a hawk, that eats chicken.
And that, dear readers, is just the beginning! Foghorn Leghorn tries to convince CH to try other things: something from the Chinese restaurant down the street, or a fish taco, or honey buns, or a hot dog, or pork(y Pig), and finally…
Foghorn Leghorn (in kuntry rap):… Try my grandma’s baked beans… they’ve got 10 grams of protein! They’re duly sweet and piping hot, you’ll want to eat the whole dang pot!
Barnyard Dog (falsetto singing): Chickenhawk’s going to eat them beans; Chickenhawk is enjoying them beans.
Chickenhawk (with hearts in his eyes for the beans): You know what would go good with them beans….? CHICKEN.
And there you have it: chicken and beans. Barnyard Dog’s final words in the song clearly describe their relationship: “Beans and chicken, what a heavenly combo.” That cartoon, and Little Red, was all I needed to craft a scrumdillyicious dinner of spatchcock chicken and quick baked beans — all in less than an hour, for less than $15. I’m sorry Foghorn Leghorn – but you were DELICIOUS.
Chickenhawk’s Chicken and Quick Baked Beans
1 4lb whole roasting chicken
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 green pepper
1 small white onion
1 can cannellini beans
1 bottle Guinness
2 tbs concentrated tomato paste (I used San Marzano)
4 tbs brown sugar
paprika, ground cumin, chinese five-spice, sea salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, EVOO
white balsamic vinegar
Whole Foods had some perfectly plump Foghorn Leghorns on sale, and I grabbed a nice 4 pounder for our dinner. I rinsed and patted it dry before breaking out my kitchen shears.
Starting with my chicken breast side down, tail up…
… I start cutting out the backbone, just to the right of the tail (which I want to keep — it’s one of the best tasting parts!), snipping through both the rib-bones and the flesh and skin, until…
…. I’ve cut all the way up to the neck cavity. Starting now from there, I cut down the other side of the backbone, until I reach the tail (in which there is no bone, just cartilage and sweet sweet meat), which I cut around in order to leave it attached to the body, so I can remove the entire spinal cord.
A raw, naked, flayed, and splayed spatchcocked chicken looks like an Alien face-hugger to me; I assume Geiger thought of that, the cheeky devil.
I flip my bird face side up, and then I use my fingers to separate the skin from the flesh of the breasts, thighs, and legs. Yes, yes – I am manhandling and mauling this poor bird mercilessly, violating it in every conceivable way — like an evil proctologist with wandering fingers and a vigorous imagination. But since I’m a cook, and this is a dead chicken – it’s all good.
Figuring that Chickenhawk would probably like his Foghorn Leghorn flavored with simple farm herbs, I visited ye ol’ rosemary bush and snipped off a few healthy sprigs.
I push rosemary leaves into the pockets I made between the skin and flesh, then I sprinkle paprika, cumin, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and brush some olive oil over the whole plump and perky bird.
My next step is to prep my beans. I’m trying something new tonight on Little Red; baking beans in a pan right on the grill surface. I did this the other night with little potatoes, which yielded these perfect little tots of crispy-outside, creamy-inside spuds. Seeing that a cake-pan got so hot, I thought my heavy saucepan might work, too. I started by grabbing a bottle of Guinness (left over from the other, other night), and dicing 1/2 a green pepper and a small onion.
Since I want to do most of this outside (it is a perfect night), and I don’t want to carry a ton of crap or have to go back in and out, after I drain all the liquid out of my can of beans, I add 1/2 – 1 tsp. of each of my dry spices and 2 tbs tomato paste to the can and bring that out to the deck. These are approximations, BTW — Lolita is a bit like the Swedish Chef. My cutting board with diced veg, my can of beans and flavor, and my bottle of beer all head out to the deck with me.
My pan has been sitting over the hot coils for about 15 minutes so far.
This was my first test: I added a few glugs of EVOO, and was thrilled to see it immediately slick and shimmer — my pan was *HOT*. Yay!
The green pepper and onion went in first, and I enjoyed the gratifying sizzling sound they made when they hit the oil. I stirred them around, then closed the lid on Little Red for a few moments so that the veg could soften in the heat.
Next, I added the contents of my bean can, and gave that a good stir to mix all the ingredients together.
Then I add about 1/2 of my bottle of beer – just enough to cover everything in delicious brown foam. This gets a good stir, too.
Finally, Foghorn Leghorn gets nestled, face up, on the hot grate, straddling my bean pan. Everything is going to cook for a total of 40 minutes, right together.
I close up Little Red, so that he can do his magic. The slowly setting sun warms his forehead, and Cambridge’s rooftops glow in the background.
I love it up here.
After 25 minutes, my beans have started to thicken and reduce. I stir the contents of the pan around a few times, smooshing about 1/4 of the beans as I do so, to thicken the sauce.
Then I flip my now-bottom-browned bird onto his breast. I shut the lid and walk away to enjoy the evening for another 15 minutes.
I had 1/2 a package of salad greens, and 1/2 a log of goat cheese in the fridge – this, with EVOO, white balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper became my super-simple salad. The beans and chicken should be hot and spiced, so would was the perfect creamy cold compliment for those dishes. Chickenhawk wouldn’t mind.
Oh, and for the last 5 minutes, I chucked a couple of sourdough rolls into Little Red to heat through. Some bread and butter is always welcome at the table.
My chicken is perfectly cooked through, with clear running juices when pierced with a fork. My beans are thick and rich; when I drag my spoon through them, it takes a few sumptuous seconds for the sliver bottom to be swallowed out of sight by the deep red stew.
Now that is one beautiful bird! Feather-white Foghorn Leghorn never had a six-pack when kuntry-stuttering around the farmyard, but after his workout with Little Red he’s cut like Chippendale model, and as tan as George Hamilton.
Thank you so much for your excellent recommendation inre Lolita’s plat du jour. Your assessment of the symbiotic relationship between chicken and beans was prescient; as they collaborated to nourish me in between my masticating jaws, they accomplished more than I could have asked for. Mr. Leghorn’s muscular flavor and crispy skin worked perfectly with the sweetly spicy scoop of beans that formed his support staff, and the snappy creamy salad was an excellent aide de camp. We would be happy to welcome you to our conference or dinner table any time, and do hope that you will continue to inspire people by hunting chickens and singing rap songs well into the future.
Lolita (and Clayton)