Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Last week I was in Wisconsin wishing hard for just the slightest sign of spring. It was as if God or nature heard me, because next day a thaw set in and by the end of the week, as I was taking a final walk with the dogs, I found three little green spears of iris (of all things!) coming up out at the end of the driveway by the mailbox. I stooped and just took them in for about a minute. How sweet the sight of them was!

But now I’m back in Minnesota and we had some wet snow Monday and Tuesday, and I think it will be two or three weeks before anything green dares poke its head up in front of some south-facing wall. But I could be wrong.

Easter is coming this Sunday, extremely early for this moveable feast. I have heard it will be two hundred years before it comes this early again. We had friends over for corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, and my sister-in-law is having some family over for a Good Friday meal, so Easter won’t call for a big feast in our home this year. I think I’ll fix a “beer chicken,” and my favorite Aunt Velva’s bean salad.

You all know what a “beer chicken” is, don’t you? When I first heard about it, I kept waiting for the punch line, because I thought it was a joke. Then I didn’t try it because I heard it was to be prepared on a grill, and we don’t own a grill. Then I did try it in an oven and Oh My Goodness! It is so delicious! And so easy, too! Heat the oven to 250 or 275 degrees. Then open a can of beer, and drink about a third of it and put the can down in the center of a cookie sheet, the kind with a rim around it. Take one whole chicken and rinse it off under the tap. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken while holding it upside down (I use seasoned salt), then set the chicken down on the can until it is almost all up inside the chicken. Use his poor little legs to help keep him upright. Twist his wings around his back. Sprinkle more salt and pepper on his shoulders, chest and tummy. Put the sheet in the oven and check it after an hour with a meat thermometer. I find it takes between and hour and ninety minutes. The only hard part of this whole operation is getting the beer can out of the chicken, but I have found that letting it cool for five minutes usually does the trick. Have someone hold the chicken over the sink while you pry at the can with a fork. You will not believe how tender and juicy the meat is. What’s interesting is that you can’t taste the beer; what’s even more interesting is that no other beverage gets as delicious a result.

So long as we’re talking recipes, here’s Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad: Empty two cans of dark red kidney beans into a strainer and rinse thoroughly. Chop half a sweet onion medium fine. Chop four or five little sweet gherkins. Hard boil three eggs, chop two of them. Put the onion, gherkins and chopped egg into a bowl with the beans. Take a quarter cup of cider vinegar, a half a cup of sugar, and a cup of sour cream and mix them well. Pour over the bean mixture. Peel the third egg and slice it thinly and strew over the top of the salad. This is excellent if made on the day and superb after a night in the refrigerator. You can substitute Splenda for the sugar and plain yogurt for the sour cream, and it’s still pretty good. I make it just twice a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. God bless Aunt Velva, who taught it to my mother before I was born.

And Happy Easter

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