My soul shall be sated as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you! — Psalm 63:5
Beer is a biblical beverage. In fact there are three beers mentioned by name in the Old Testament:
A friend of mine likes to tell that joke — all the time. He always laughs while telling it t0o; unless I spoil the punchline for him. I finally decided it’s better to let him have his laugh. Besides, a guy like that is great fun at a barbecue.
Faith food go hand in hand, especially in the presence of good friends: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”
I want to share some of my ideas about spicing up your parties with a little spirituality, but first…
Here’s my recipe for Beer Can Chicken:
- First, drink half a beer.
- If you don’t drink beer, see some of my other suggestions below*.
- Prepare the grill by placing a drip pan in the bottom of the grill between two small stacks of coals (see suggestion below* for cooking on a gas grill).
- Lite the coals (using as much lighter fluid as needed) and let them burn down for about 30 minutes, until all the coals are evenly covered in gray.
- Get a 4 pound full roaster chicken; take out the innards.
- Rub it with your favorite dry spices. I prefer to keep it simple: salt, pepper, garlic, and a touch of olive oil.
- Insert the can of beer (with the half beer you didn’t drink) into the cavity of the chicken, open lid facing upward.
- Make sure the beer stays in the can; don’t pour it into the chicken.
- Once the coals are ready, place the chicken seated on its throne (i.e., the beer can) on the grill, over the drip pan.
- Cover the grill.
- Cooking time: 1 hour and 15 minutes (can range from 1 hour to 1 hour 30 min., depending on how successfully you managed the coals).
- When you remove the grill-cover, your chicken should appear crisp and golden brown on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.
- Remove the cans, discard the liquid (no longer beer), serve, and enjoy!
I mentioned I would add a few more suggestions below. But first…
A little Lectio Divina on the side
Part of the art of grilling is your premeditated play for using your time while the coals are heating up and while the meat is cooking (if you are slow cooking on a covered grill). Some people use this time to drink more beer. Since this recipe calls for at least an hour of cooking time, I propose making it a Barbecue and Bible party.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition, dating back to the Church Fathers, for meditating on Sacred Scripture. Several methods can be used. Jacque Philippe includes a brief section on Lectio Divina in the appendix of his book Called to Life, which I highly recommend. He suggests making a daily personal reflection on each day’s readings for the Mass for at least 15 and up to 30 minutes.
Dedicating time each day to personal meditation on Scripture is an excellent idea. It is also a wonderful idea to do it as a group, not simply as a group Bible study, but as a communion of prayer, reflection, and delving deeper into the Sacred texts, allowing the Spirit to draw out meaningful messages for your life. Giving an hour to an hour and 15 minutes for this activity allows time for reading, reflection, thoughtful commentary, and sharing of life’s experiences in a casual, yet prayerful environment. All of this can be done while your chicken is roasting on the grill. When prayer time is over, everyone will be looking forward to a tasty home-cooked meal and the discussion can continue over dinner.
Here are a few suggestions for doing a group Lectio Divina, or if you prefer, Bible and Barbecue.
- Begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who guides the prayer.
- Choose some texts from the Bible. I recommend using the following Sunday’s readings for the Mass. You can any, all, or a combination of texts: Old Testament reading, Psalm, Epistle, and/or Gospel. You may prefer to use the reading from the previous Sunday. I like to reflect on the following Sunday as a preparation for the liturgy. I tend to get more from the homily after I’ve meditated on the texts myself, and it often surprises me how the Spirit mangages to use both to tell me something about my life during the priest’s homily on Sunday.
- Have one of the participants read the text aloud. Everyone else can follow along with their own Bible (or Magnificat). The Spirit begins to stir during the public reading of the Word. I like to do this part standing up and then sit down for the subsequent group reflection.
- Let the Spirit guide you. If you are moved by the Spirit, speak up! If you feel pressured to speak but have not put together a complete thought — have not connected all of the dots yet — hold on for a minute, reflect, listen to what others have to say (the Spirit speaks through them too), and when the time comes, you will know what to say.
- A simple format can help. The format does not have to be too structured, but some previously agreed methodology allows everyone anticipate where the discussion is headed. Begin with the inspirations you receive through the reading of the Word. Move one to share the relations you have made to other passages of Scripture, such as the other reading for that week’s liturgy. Associate the reading with life events, which may be your own, someone else’s, and even events that come up in the media. At the end, feel free to share your action items — How is the Spirit inspiring you to act through your reflection on Scripture. You may be surprised when your group is in one accord and a group commitment naturally springs from your reflection.
- End with a prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Include intercessory prayers as well either at the beginning or end of the the session.
Now it’s time to take the chicken off the grill, carve it up, and serve it. I mention that I would add a few more cooking and serving suggestions here.
The drip-pan serves more than one purpose. Obviously, it catches the drippings from the chicken for easy cleanup afterward. It also separates the coals so as to keep the chicken from being directly over the flame. Furthermore, it serves as a steam-dish that will maintain moisture in the covered grill while cooking. You can add just about any liquid you like to the pan before lighting the coals. For example, beer. If you don’t drink beer, then pour half the beer into the drip pan.
If you do like beer and can’t fathom drinking just half a beer, cook two chickens; you’ll get a full beer out of it that way and plenty of leftovers (depending on how many people you invite over for your barbecue).
Choose a good rub. Like I said, I like to keep it simple and use ingredients that I know I have at my disposal. If I have it on hand, I might add just an herb or two, like rosemary, tarragon, basil, or oregano (fines herbes is a good mixture you can find in the spice section of your local grocery store). Lemon always goes well with chick. You can also use your favorite dry chicken rub, there are plenty of them out there. Experiment and find out what works best for your chicken.
Grilled veggies go well with grilled chicken. Of course you don’t want to overcook them. Asparagus, for example, needs more attention than, say, onions or garlic. I like to grill cipollini — small, Italian, “shallot-like” pearl-onions. Throw them on the grill with the chicken — you don’t even have to remove the skin. When the chicken is done, the cipollini are too. Let them cool for a while and you can squeeze them right out of the skin and into your mouth. De-lish-ous!
Finally, if it’s not grilling season and you still want to have a Lectio Divina supper, be creative with other slow cooking, easy to prepare meals. For instance, why not “Faith and Fondue” or “Croc-pot and Creed?” Order pizza! Come up with your own prayer-dinner ideas. The most important thing is this:
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum, habitare fratres in unum! — Psalm 133