Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Grilled Butterflied Chicken

So the question was asked, "What do you do with a fresh 3lb, 6oz chicken?"

You make it yummy, that's what!  And the best part is, it's not that difficult!

I have long had a favorite roast chicken recipe that has never failed me.  The "High Roast Butterflied Chicken with Potatoes" from Cooks' Illustrated (or America's Test Kitchen) was so yummy that I had a hard time finding an excuse not to make it almost once per week.  Until, that is, I couldn't have dairy anymore.  And I pretty much stopped eating white starches.  But the great thing about CI recipes (besides the fact that they always turn out amazing) is that there's some technique to be learned by trying the recipe, and from this particular one, I learned how to butterfly a chicken and brine it.

I don't really think it matters whether you brine then butterfly, or butterfly then brine.  In this case, the brine came first.  And since it was only 3 hours, it was more of just a good soak than a good brine.  But let's not get lost in the technicalities, ok?

Chicken soak:
3 pints water
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt (optional, leave it out altogether or try a bit of liquid smoke instead!)

Clean chicken thoroughly and place in large bowl.  Pour soak ingredients over chicken, cover and place in refrigerator.  Best if brined for 24 hours.

Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Lay on cutting board breast-side down.
Now comes the part where we butterfly the bird. 

 (NB: I prefer the term "spatchcock" mostly because it sounds cooler.  But I've read that a properly spatchcocked chicken has the breastbone removed as well as the backbone, but if you're looking for more cooking tips or recipes, Martha Stewart's website has some great ones along with how-to videos.)  

For the next part, a good pair of kitchen shears is a necessity.  Simply hold the end of the spine between your thumb and forefinger of one hand and feel around beside it for where the ribs branch out.  Use your kitchen shears to cut along one side of the spine from the bottom of the bird to the top and then do the same on the other side to completely remove the spine.  Open up the chicken into a butterfly shape.  If you were truly spatchcock-ing, this is where you would remove the breastplate.  I tried, but only got about half of it out.  Might have helped if I had actually watched the how-to video before attempting it.  Oh well.

Flip the bird over and press down between the breast sections to flatten.

Season as desired.  If you have truly brined the bird overnight, you shouldn't need to add salt but if you want some extra flavor, this is a great time to add some seasoning to the skin, put some lemon slices between the skin and flesh, or whatever.  (Please share your favorite pre-grill seasonings in the comments!!  Here's a recipe that looks really good that I'd like to try with the next bird we take out of the freezer.)

Heat grill to medium high and place chicken breast-side down over direct heat.  Cook ten to fifteen minutes until the skin is brown and getting some char marks.

Flip over and cook for 30 minutes more, turning heat down (or moving coals out of the way) if flare-ups start to occur.

Flip once more to finish browning the skin and continue cooking (another 10 to 15 minutes) until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  Remove from grill and let rest for at least 10 minutes.  

We served this with roasted cauliflower and beets, but the great thing about a spatchcocked chicken on the grill is that it leaves lots of room and heat for grilled sides of your choice!

The chicken itself was a big hit in our family.  The kids dug right in, and it was definitely an experience knowing that this bird had been wandering our yard just that morning!

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