Spatchcocking chickens is just one of the lessons in “Chicken & Other Birds: From the Perfect Roast Chicken to Asian-style Duck Breasts” by Paul Gayler (Jacqui Small, $35). Gayler, a noted hotel chef in London, offers tips on roasting, braising, frying and grilling all kinds of poultry, and many of the techniques can be transferred from one kind to another. This technique for the peppery Italian grilled chicken dish Pollo Fra Diavolo, though originally made with Cornish hens, could be applied to a small whole chicken.
He suggests cooking over charcoal barbecue for the smoky flavor and with bricks to help the meat cook evenly. But the recipe works just as well with a propane grill and without the bricks.
Pollo Fra Diavolo
4 Cornish game hens or 1 small whole chicken
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. coarsely cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped oregano
1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 2 lemons
11 oz. arugula
2 lemons, halved
To spatchcock the poultry, place the whole bird on a cutting board, breast side down with the legs pointing toward you. Using poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut along one side of the backbone. Rotate the bird and cut alongside the other side of the bone to remove. Flip the chicken over so it is breast side up. Use the heel of your hand to press firmly along the breastbone. The wishbone will break and the bird will lie flat.
Put the hens or chicken in a large bowl or tray. Lightly coat both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle over the oregano, parsley and the lemon juice. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour so that the meat isn’t as cold as your fridge when you grill it.
Heat a barbecue or ridged griddle pan and wrap four clean bricks (if using) in tinfoil. You will not need the bricks if you use a griddle pan. When the barbecue is hot, place the bird(s) on the grill and top each with a foil-wrapped brick. Grill for 15 minutes, until the chickens are cooked on the underside.
Remove the bricks, turn the chickens over, replace the bricks and cook for 15 minutes more, until the chicken is tender. If you are cooking the meat on a ridged griddle pan, cook for the same amount of time.
Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with lemon halves and the arugula, and serve. Serves 4.
— From “Chicken & Other Birds: From the Perfect Roast Chicken to Asian-style Duck Breasts” by Paul Gayler (Jacqui Small, $35)