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Friday, July 20, 2012

Random Food Fridays - Spatchcocked Chicken on the Grill

Chicken and corn, cooked on the grill, plus sunomono.
A great summer meal.



Spatchcock. Admit it, you want to say it, and LOUD. It's a fun word to say. There are lots of fun food words - muffaletta, bi bim bap, and even sunomono. I realize that those last three originated from languages other than English, but that's part of what makes them fun. This word - spatchcock - originates from English. I've been flattening chickens for the grill for years, but I never knew this was the term for this method until I saw it on Two Fat Ladies. The beauty of this method is that it increases the surface area of the chicken for both the marinade and the heat.


I know some of my friends are squeamish about meat that looks like an animal, but hey, that's what it is. I've always liked cutting up my own chickens because I do a better job of it than most grocery stores or meat packing plants and I get to keep the bones. This job is pretty easy. You must have a very sharp knife. Poultry shears will do, but a good sharp knife will take you far. Simply wash the chicken, remove any extras, like giblets and pat the chicken dry. Place it breast-down on your meat cutting board. Begin cutting from the neck area down on one side of the spine. When you get to the thigh, you may have to wiggle it to find the joint. Cut through the thigh joint and continue down to the tail. Do the same thing on the other side of the spine and remove it. Pull the cavity open and make two cuts, one on either side of the breast bone and keel bone. This will allow you to pull the cavity open and flatten the chicken.


You can really use any kind of marinade you like. I used a simple stand-by - white wine vinaigrette . I'll give you the recipe at the end of this post. It's great on all kinds of salad too. The reason it's real green is that I used extra virgin olive oil


To marinate, place the chicken in a one-gallon zip top bag and pour in the marinade. (Shake the marinade first, if needed.) Remove as much air as possible from the bag, then squish the marinade all around. When I'm going to grill on a week night, I like to prepare everything the night before. Then I just have to get the grill going when I get home from work. If you can't marinate over night, I would recommend at least a couple of hours.


To grill a whole chicken, even a spatchcocked one, you should use indirect heat. I have two nifty grill accessories that let me get the coals going on either side of the grill, leaving an open space for the food to be cooked indirectly. I've placed some heavy duty foil on the bottom rack to catch the drips.


This chicken takes somewhere between 40 and 60 minutes. My chicken started out around 4 pounds and was done in 50 minutes. A good thermometer is extremely helpful when grilling foods that must come up to a certain temp for safety. Chicken and other poultry should come up to at least 165 degrees. You can actually pull it at about 160 and cover it with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. The internal temp will increase for sometime and then begin to cool. This step makes a huge difference in the juiciness of the finished product.

I added corn to my grill about half way through the cooking time. I simply gave the husks a tiny bit of a trim on the end, just so any loose bits wouldn't ignite. I left them otherwise undisturbed and soaked them in cold water while the chicken started its cooking. Thirty minutes is about right, for this type of grilling. If you have a very hot grill, the corn may need a closer eye and be done a lot faster.

Here is my meal. So delicious! Some of the best of summer!

Spatchcocked Chicken on the Grill
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
About 1 1/2 cups marinade (vinaigrette recipe to follow)

Wash and pat dry the chicken. Remove any giblets and excess skin and fat from the cavity. Place it breast-down on your meat cutting board. Begin cutting from the neck area down on one side of the spine. When you get to the thigh, you may have to wiggle it to find the joint. Cut through the thigh joint and continue down to the tail. Do the same thing on the other side of the spine and remove it. Pull the cavity open and make two cuts, one on either side of the breast bone and keel bone. This will allow you to pull the cavity open and flatten the chicken. Place the chicken and the marinade in a flat dish or a one-gallon zip top bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Marinate a few hours or over night.

When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place on a counter top. Allowing the chicken to come closer to room temp allows for more even cooking on the grill. Meanwhile, prepare your grill. Set up a gas grill for indirect heat. If using charcoal, use 40 briquettes - 20 on either side of the grill. Place a piece of heavy duty foil in between the charcoal. Turn the edges up slightly to capture the drippings. When the coals are ashy and glowing, oil the grill rack. This can be done by rolling up some paper towels, dipping the roll in oil and using tongs to rub the oily paper towels across the rack. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on the hot, oiled grill rack over the foil. Arrange the legs so that the ends of the legs are facing outwards. Make sure your top and bottom vents are open and place the cover on the grill. Check the internal temperature of the chicken after 40 minutes. I use a digital thermometer. Be sure to place the probe in a meaty part of the chicken and do not touch a bone. I usually measure the thickest part of the thigh. When the chicken reaches an internal temp of 160-165, remove it from the grill. (Be careful. It may be so tender it will fall apart!) Place on a  platter and cover with foil for 15-20 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

White Wine Vinaigrette for Salads and Marinades
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp. garlic and herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
lots of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake like crazy until it is emulsified. You can add other fresh or dried herbs to taste. This version is pretty basic.

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