Right now in California we are in the height of asparagus season. This meant it was time for the annual Asparagus Festival in Stockton. For those not familiar with California, Stockton is usually in the news for very negative reasons. Earlier this year Stockton became the largest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy. Unfortunately it is also regularly in the news for murders (mostly gang related). In fact it has more murders per capita than Chicago.
We have loosely made plans to attend the Stockton Asparagus Festival in years past, but we never made it until last Saturday. After parking and walking to the festivals downtown location situated next to scenic McLeod Lake (a tiny lake connected to a channel that eventually leads out to the delta) we quickly realized that like most things Stockton is a lot more complex than one would think from the news.
We left our house at 10 and got the festival around noon; just in time to eat again! We made our way over to asparagus alley and got deep fried asparagus plus steak and asparagus sandwiches. I made the mistake of going to get waters before I had snapped a photo of our deep fried asparagus so what you see was my half.
While we ate, Lolo went down for a nap on her blanket in the grass. We woke up to Major League Eating setting up on the main stage for their deep fried asparagus eating contest. Their paid emcee was probably the best part of the show. He spent about 30 minutes pumping up the crowd for the 10 minute competition. Those 10 minutes were fast, furious, and epic though as an upset was in the works. Matt Stonie literally inhaled 9.5 pounds of asparagus in 10 minutes to oust the reigning champ Joey Chestnut.
After the competition we got up and walked around different areas of the festival. There were ponies, a kissing sea lion, numerous rides, and carnival games for kids. For adults there was food, music and alcohol. We also found the California Asparagus Commission‘s tent and learned that the farmers prefer to eat jumbo asparagus because it is from younger plants and it is meatier, yet still tender. They told us that most consumers falsely believe that jumbo asparagus is older and tougher and so we tend to purchase smaller stalks at the market. You’ll also find a ton of great asparagus recipes to try on their website.
On our way out of the festival we picked up one pound of fresh jumbo asparagus. I’m starting to realize that seasons are a treat and we should gorge ourselves with what is in season and fresh. When we are sick of any one item we will be saved by the changing of the season. In the meantime we’ll be eating the best tasting fresh asparagus, or what have you, going.
Now finally for the beer can chicken and grilled asparagus recipe.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 can of beer (16 oz or more recommended)
- Dry rub seasoning of choice
- 1 lbs asparagus
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
We purchased a 20 oz can of Dale’s Pale Ale which worked out perfectly for two reasons. First the longer can fit the chicken beautifully. Second you don’t need 20 oz of beer so I started by opening our beer and drinking half of it!
Next season both sides of your chicken, then insert the can into the chicken cavity. I cooked our beer can chicken on our grill, but you can also use a regular oven. You are roasting the chicken though, so if you do use a grill be sure to keep the chicken off the direct heat. I had my two left burners on full and the chicken over the right side burners which were off. I only opened the lid twice. Once would have been even better. I did rotate the chicken once because the left side looked a bit darker than the right.
Cook at around 400 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half. The drum sticks should pull off easily when the meat is finished.
When our beer can chicken was finished I let it rest while I worked on the grilled asparagus. Start by breaking off the dry ends of the asparagus (asparagus will naturally break at the right location if you flex it from the bottom). Then season the spears with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook them briefly, around 2 to 5 minutes total, rotating as needed.
Local Ingredients Used
Mary’s Free Range Chicken – Fresno, CA, Asparagus – Stockton, CA