When you buy whole happy chickens from local farmers like Bill and I do and your kitchen temperature stays in the 80-degree range most of the summer, roasting a chicken in the oven is not an option. And, I’m a bit lazy about cutting a chicken up into pieces to cook in other ways.
Instead, I do a spatchcock (splayed) whole chicken on the grill, which keeps the cooking heat outside the house.
This recipe was inspired by Stephen Raichlen’s Spatchcocked Game Hens Under a Brick with Basil Marinade. (For other recipes by the man who “reinvented the barbeque,” check out The Barbecue Bible.)
In my adaptation, I used one chicken and adjusted the time accordingly. Since our chicken was just under four pounds, the rest of the ingredient quantities stayed about the same because, in total, it’s about four pounds of meat.
One 4-lb. chicken
1 bunch basil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
I don’t have the prettiest basil in my garden but at least it’s organic.
For the recipe, I snipped the top leaves off several of the plants. Is this “a bunch” like the recipe calls for? Hard to know. I just went with what I had. Believe me, the flavor was excellent.
If you don’t have that much basil, you can combine basil with fresh thyme and rosemary for a delicious herb-infused marinade. I’ve tried that before when my basil yield was low.
Combine all the ingredients except the chicken in a food processor to make the marinade.
Here’s the blended marinade.
This is one of the last chickens we got from Tom Cary, who raised them in the pastures of Lubbers Farm last year. It’s been in our freezer since last summer. Once the chicken was thawed, I put it in the sink to perform surgery.
Poultry shears are a must for this operation, and a handy tool to have in the kitchen. Ever since I took a cooking class in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago, I learned how empowering it is to know how to cut up poultry (something I never learned before because of the convenient factory farm chicken I used to buy in the grocery store). But you’ve got to have the right tools. I love my Oxo Good Grips poultry shears. (It’s important to wash these in very hot soapy water, or run them through the dishwasher after use on poultry.)
The first step in the operation is to remove the backbone (and neck if it’s still intact). It’s so easy with shears. Just cut along both sides of the bone and remove. (Remember to save the backbone for stock!)
The next step is more difficult and I’m not sure if I even did it right. First you open up the bird, like opening a book, and gently pull the halves apart. Then, use a sharp paring knife to score the top of the breastbone. Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out. (I usually end up using a knife.) Then spread the bird out flat.
Flip the bird over and cut slits in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg so you can tuck the drumstick in.
Then put the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish and pour the marinade over the meat, covering both sides.
After marinading in the fridge for four hours or more, it’s time to preheat the grill to medium heat. Meanwhile, locate a brick. Yes, just a regular household brick. Or anything heavy and fireproof.
Cover it well with foil.
When the grill is around 350 degrees, put the chicken on, skin side down and place the brick on the chicken.
For a 4-lb. chicken, grill on each side about 20-25 minutes on medium heat. You can see we probably did this side a little too long (25 minutes with both burners on).
So when we did the other side, we turned the center burner off and only grilled it for 20 minutes. At this point, we put some steamed Butterball Potatoes from Visser Farms on the grill. I got this recipe from Lauri Sisson of Pereddies’ Restaurant at the Holland Farmers Market Chef Series demo in June.
She baked them in the oven but they are really good on the grill, too.
Once the chicken is done, it’s important to let it rest a few minutes under foil.
Serve with potatoes and salad.
Don’t forget to boil the carcass for stock. This chicken dish renders a delicious rich stock infused with herbs.