Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spatchcocked Lemon, Rosemary & Garlic Grilled Chicken

Yesterday I performed my very first spatchcock…on a chicken, of course.  Yes, it’s a real word and technique. No, it isn’t illegal.  And yes, the results are amazingly tender, succulent and delicious once the chicken has been properly cut, flattened, marinated and slowly, slowly grilled.  Under bricks.  Wrapped in foil.  What makes this chicken different from any other grilled chicken is hard to describe, but different it is!  Why?

First, instead of a great big roaster, like I would use for a beer can chicken cooked whole and uncut, I use a small fryer.  A younger, smaller bird equals a more tender finished product!  

Second, possibly it’s the spatchcocking itself.  As a result of being split in half down the back while remaining attached at the breastbone, the chicken can be opened up like a book allowing you to grill it flat.  Sure, you grill individual parts that way – breasts, legs, thighs, but something about the entire chicken being in one large piece more efficiently keeps in the moisture.  Yep, more moisture equals a juicier chicken. 

Third, the marinade adds even more moisture and tenderizes the chicken even further with the acid in the lemon.  I used olive oil, fresh lemon, lots of garlic and fresh rosemary – classic! 

Fourth, the grilling technique of cooking over indirect heat at the lowest possible temp, skin side down to start with and flattened down firmly with the weight of foil covered bricks created a crisp skin that simultaneously nearly melted into the meat of the chicken.  It was gorgeous!  Picture perfect – check the pic!  And perfectly delicious. 

Spatchcocking itself is fairly easy –  directions are in the recipe below, but you can Google “spatchcock” for very detailed directions and even some videos.    

Don’t sweat attempting your very first, very own spatchcocking….its easy to do with a good sharp knife and a little pressure.  Pretty soon you'll have the procedure down and you'll be spatchcocking all over the place!  You'll be giving advice to friends on the glories of spatchcockery!  You'll be proselytizing about your spatchcock technique to anyone and everyone who will listen!  

Here's the recipe:

Spatchcocked Lemon, Rosemary & Garlic Grilled Chicken

  • 1 small chicken, fryer type - tenderer and juicier

  • 1 large lemon, 2 if not LARGE, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, about 6-8" long or the equivalent length, leaves pulled off stems and chopped

  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 heavy bricks - new, clean and wrapped neatly and completely in aluminum foil

After the backbone has been removed.

Spatchcock the chicken.  Okay, that means to turn the chicken breast side down, take a very sharp knife and cut along BOTH sides of the backbone, one at a time, from top to bottom to remove the backbone.  Go in knife tip first and lower the blade along the way.  Reinsert the knife if necessary.  Once the backbone is out, open the chicken and lay it flat open side down.  Press firmly with the heel of your hand all along the skin side of the breast to flatten as much as possible.

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large zip top bag.  When well mixed, gently put the chicken into the bag, open the chicken out flat in the bag, squeeze ALL the air out and using your fingers, smoosh the marinade all around the chicken evenly.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or you can start this the night before.
Heat the grill, using the lowest setting possible.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and let the excess marinade drip off.  Salt and pepper the skin side of the chicken liberally. 
On the grill, under the bricks!
Lay the chicken on the grill over INDIRECT heat.  Lay the foil-wrapped bricks on top of each side of the chicken, pressing the chicken flat.  Close the grill top and let 'er rip.  Gently, of course. 

Check the chicken often to be sure it's cooking and browning evenly, turning as necessary.  If the flames flare up, have a squirt bottle of water ready to put out the flames.
It will take 1 1/2 - 2 hours, more or less, to cook the chicken completely.  Once the skin has browned and crisped, turn it over to cook it through on the other side; then finish off last by turning it over to the skin side again to give the skin one last crisping. 
Carefully move to a serving plate and serve!
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