Established in 1936, Tom Bergin’s Public House in L.A. has long been a go-to watering hole for Angelenos from Cary Grant to Kiefer Sutherland. In fact, it’s even the place where the Los Angeles Rams (remember them?) celebrated their World Championship in 1951.
If you’re looking for a liquid lunch, you’ll want to drink down the bar’s famous Irish Coffee, but for something a little more satisfying, try the bar’s Smoked Beer Can Cornish Hen. And, lucky for you, you can enjoy this signature dish far from the City of Angels, in the comfort of your own kitchen with this recipe, created by Preston Small, the restaurant’s lead line cook.
Smoked Beer Can Cornish Hen
(makes four birds)
STEP 1: BRINE
• 4 Cornish hens or small whole chickens, cleaned out
• 4 quarts ice
• 4 lemons, halved
• 2 limes, halved
• ½ bunch of rosemary
• ½ bunch of thyme
All moist and flavorful poultry has one thing in common: brining. To brine the birds, fill a pot with a quart of water. Bring it to a boil, then add 10 tsp. salt and 10 tsp. sugar.
In a large pot add four quarts of ice, the lemons, limes rosemary and thyme. Pour the sugar-salt-water mixture over the ice and stir. Add the chickens. Rest for 24 hours before removing from the brine.
STEP 2: THE RUB
• 8-½ tsp. paprika
• 10 tsp. seasoned salt
• 4 tsp. garlic powder
• 4 tsp. onion powder
• 2-½ tsp. cayenne powder
• ½ tsp. dried oregano
• 6 tsp. sugar
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
STEP 3: SMOKE
• 4 12-oz. beer cans of your choice (we recommend pilsner or lager, but we also encourage experimentation)
• 4 brined birds
Pour out half the beer from each can (feel free to drink what you don’t use). Add 1 tbsp. of the chicken rub to each can and swirl gently. Apply the rub thoroughly to the inside and outside of the brined birds. Place the hens over beer cans so they’ll balance atop them (see picture). Let the birds rest for an hour at room temperature. This well help make the skin crispy by letting it dry a little, and will also help cook the bird more evenly because the temperature of the chicken will be even throughout.
Add presoaked wood chips to a perforated foil packet and place in your grill or smoker. Preheat the smoker or grill to 240 degrees then put the birds in for an hour and 15 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature between 155 and 160 degrees.