Ah, the beauty of a chicken, opened out and flattened for the BBQ, so that it cooks nice and evenly, and faster too. What could be better?
Well, given that we can do most of the work for you* an additional step with our English Label chicken would be to give them the brining treatment, to ensure extra succulence when grilling over coals.
We're specifically talking about dry-brining meat here and the benefits are manifold but to refer to chef’s 3-point explanation of this scientific wizardry (which he outlines in Hog), firstly, raw meat absorbs liquid during the brining period and increases weight.
Secondly, brining causes some proteins in the muscle fibres to dissolve, turning them from solid to liquid.
And thirdly, the salt in brine causes some of the proteins in the muscle fibres to unwind and swell. As they unwind, the bonds that hold the proteins together break and water from the brine then binds directly to these bonds whilst cooking. Hence, the extra juiciness. Get it?
Finally, the guiding principle for dry-brining by the way is to use 2.5% total salt against the weight of the bird.
OK, we’re a little way off building a full curriculum for our School of Meat. But trust us, it all works.
The accompanying salad is a serving suggestion, inspired by the brains of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and goes very well with most grilled meats.
Try it with the chicken though as all those tangy, sour flavours from the the cherries and Sherry vinegar do help to balance things out.
Now then, that’s enough cerebral activity for the day, let’s cook.
*You knew when buying online that you could select whole chicken to be butterflied, split or completely boned, right?
Ingredients - serves 4
1 Whole English Label Chicken, (approx. 1.8kg and spatchcocked by the T&G team)
25g Tasty Bird Rub
20g Maldon Sea Salt
1 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
For the salad
125g Puy lentils
2 bay leaves
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs water
1 tsp caster sugar
125g fresh cherries, stoned and halved
70ml sherry vinegar
100g Waberthwaite pancetta, sliced into strips
120g baby spinach leaves, rinsed
100g Gorgonzola cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Firstly, create your dry-brine by mixing the Tasty Bird Rub, Maldon sea salt and pureed garlic together and rub it all over both sides of the spatchcocked chicken.
Place into a tray, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.
On day of cooking, take out of the brine and remove some of the excess salt with a kitchen towel.
Get your BBQ set up for cooking directly and if possible, make sure you have scope for adjusting the grill height (we used a tripod set-up for this recipe).
When your coals are white and glowing, place the chicken down on the grill, the open ‘underneath’ side first. The aim is to cook steadily here, so if the heat is fierce, raise the grill a touch.
Give the underneath 10 minutes and then flip onto skinside, cooking again for 10 minutes, and then repeat. This should give the whole chicken 40 minutes to grill completely BUT do trust your instincts and if possible, have a thermapen to hand.
You are looking for an internal temperature of 75°C in the thickest part ie the thigh. If you need to give the chicken a bit longer, just chill and crack open a beer.
Whilst the chicken is cooking, you should also have time to assemble the salad, so begin by washing the lentils and adding enough water to cover them with about 3 times their height. Add the bay leaves and bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until they are al dente.
Place 2 tablespoons of the oil into a saucepan and place on the hob over a medium heat. Add the shallots and gently fry off for 10 minutes until they become golden. Then add the water, sugar, cherries and sherry vinegar and continue to simmer gently for 8 minutes, or until the cherries have softened.
Drain the lentils and then add to the cherry sauce and season with cracked black pepper. Mix all together and leave to cool a touch.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a high heat on the hob and quickly fry off the pancetta until it becomes crispy and then transfer to some kitchen towel to cool.
To build the salad, scatter the spinach leaves into a large flat bowl and then take the warm lentils and cherries and spoon across the top. Finish by scattering the pancetta all over and dot small lumps of the Gorgonzola about the dish. Complete with a final grind of black pepper all over the top.
To serve, slice the spatchcock chicken into even pieces, i.e. legs separated into drumsticks and thighs and breast pieces split in two, with wings attached.
And then get everyone to dig in!