Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary
I recently finished reading a wonderful book, one I recommend for anyone and everyone who cooks, thinks they can cook, wants to cook, wants to learn how to cook, or just enjoys eating. As far as I can tell, that includes most everyone–certainly most everyone who reads my columns or my blogs. The book is titled Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and The Reinvention of American Taste, and it catalogs that summer, when the named principals and others of the gourmet industry glitterati of the time all found themselves in the Provence region of France at the same time. The book is abstracted from the daily journal of Ms. Fisher, one of the most most respected food writers in the world at the moment. It describes literally the moment when gourmet American cuisine stood up and broke free of the traditions and disciplines of classical French cooking and took its place as a separate and exciting style of cooking and life.
I’m not particularly a huge fan of traditional French cooking; I find it fussy and regimented, and I prefer to experiment with ingredients that I like–to mix and match flavors to see what the outcome might be. I’m not always successful, but I pride myself on technique and on my ability to repeat a recipe exactly time and time again if I find one I like. I’m also adept at duplicating a recipe I’ve tasted elsewhere and identify the flavors within. That’s not a skill I was able to hone; it is a particular and peculiar talent I was born with, so all the credit for this ability rests with my mother, who patiently explained every thing she was doing in the kitchen as she proceeded through a recipe. I then learned the rest of my cooking from my mentor, Martin Bettonio, executive chef at my family’s Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach, after a stellar career as the executive chef at The Fontainbleau hotel, also in Miami Beach.
That said, following a reading of Provence, 1970, and at the request of my beloved life partner, Ellen, I decided to make a supper dish on a Sunday evening that reflected the influences of French cooking on American cuisine and took advantage of my strengths as a cook.
And thus was born my most recent personal dish creation, the butterflied grilled chicken with lemon and rosemary. It is a model of simplicity, using only a few carefully selected ingredients. It takes advantage of the wonderful bounty of local products–the chicken is fresh from a local farm courtesy of Stoltzfus Poultry at Central Market, fresh rosemary from our very own garden, and an amazing rosemary-infused extra-virgin olive oil obtained from my new friends at Seasons Lancaster on the first block of West King Street, a wonderful new source of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys, and other condiments most interesting.
But this recipe starts with the chicken. Fresh and not so large as the hormone-laden grocery-store poultry, just over four pounds and beautifully pale–no evidence of marigold petals in Stoltzfus chickens. First I butterfly the chicken, which is my preferred way to cook a chicken on a grill; it makes for more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time. To butterfly a chicken, take a sturdy chef’s knife in one hand and the chicken in the other. Stand the bird up straight, resting on its wings and neck cavity. Place the tip of the knife firmly on the chicken just aside the tail piece (an Irish friend of mine used to call this “the Pope’s nose). Holding the chicken firmly upright, quickly run the knife down alongside the backbone, all the way to the cutting board. Turn the chicken and repeat on the other side of the backbone. Tear the whole backbone away from the chicken and set it aside. Lay the chicken on the cutting board, breast side down, and run the tip of the knife the length of the breastbone and the breast cartilage to sever the skin layer. Pick the chicken up and quickly and firmly fold it like a book bringing the outsides of the breast together, inside out, breaking the rib bones away from the breast bone. Then firmly pull the breastbone away from the chicken–both the bone and cartilage pieces. Salt and pepper the inside, flip the chicken to breast side up and lay it on the cutting board. Cut away the wing tips and set them aside with the backbone. Your chicken is now ready.
Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary
1 whole chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds, butterflied
1 whole lemon, sliced very thin
1 whole shallot, minced fine
2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Koshersalt and pepper to taste
Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit while doing the rest of the preparation.
Butterfly the chicken as described above. Preheat the outdoor grill of your choice to 350 degrees F., so that the chicken can be placed on the grates away from direct flame.
Run hands and/or fingers between the chicken meat and the skin, including the thigh and leg, if possible, to separate the skin from the meat. Rub minced shallot and olive oil over the whole chicken under the skin. Then place three slices of lemon and a whole sprig of rosemary under the skin on each side of the breast. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken, breast side down, on the grill away from the flame, and close the top. Grill 14-16 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, flip and grill 15 minutes more. The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.