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Notes from Wolfgang: Celebrate the end of summer grilling season with butterflied "barbecued" chicken!
I'm fascinated by the terms people choose to use for the cooking they do outdoors. Many still use the generic term "barbecuing." But, as true barbecue devotees will tell you, that word correctly refers only to large cuts of meat and poultry cooked slowly to near-melting tenderness by the heat of an outdoor fire, which also imparts the scent of wood smoke -- a flavor often complemented by basting the food with some form of barbecue sauce. By contrast, items like burgers, hot dogs, steaks, chops, chicken breasts and fish fillets, all cooked quickly over direct heat, are technically not barbecued but, instead, grilled.
Nevertheless, I think there can be a gray area between those barbecuing and grilling, and that's where you'll find one of my favorite things to cook outdoors, especially as summer's outdoor cooking season draws to a close: a whole butterflied chicken.
Butterflying, yet another kitchen term, describes the process of cutting out a whole chicken's backbone, flattening it into a vaguely butterfly-like shape, and cutting out most of the bones. The result cooks quickly over direct heat, so it's technically grilled. But if you season it with the kind of spice rub that's often used on foods slowly smoked cooked outdoors, and then baste it with a traditional-style sweet-and-spicy barbecue sauce...well, the result comes very close to tasting like food has truly been barbecued.
You be the judge.
Regardless of whether you choose to call this dish barbecued, grilled, or both, the key to success comes in the butterflying. You can ask a good butcher to do the job for you. Or, if you like, let me teach you how.
First, place the whole chicken on a cutting board with the backbone up. With kitchen shears or poultry shears, cut firmly through the thin rib bones, meat, and skin along either side of the backbone. Pull out the backbone. (Save it, like all the bones you remove, for stock.)
Place the bird breast down and open up both cut sides to expose the breastbone. With a small, sharp knife, cut down through the membrane covering the breastbone, and partly through the bone itself and cartilage along its length, taking care not to cut meat or skin. Pull out the breastbone and cartilage.
Keeping the knife edge against the bone, carefully cut along the underside of the ribcage on both sides to remove the rib bones.
With a boning knife, keeping the edge against the bone, carefully cut through the leg meat to expose the bone of each leg. Pull out each bone, cutting carefully through the meat, membranes and tendons.
Now you've got a whole chicken butterflied and ready to cook. "Grill" or "barbecue" it as you like.
Whole Grilled Butterflied "Barbecued" Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
1 whole organic chicken, 3
1/2 to 4 lb, butterflied
extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons Dry Spice Rub (recipe follows)
Spicy Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
fresh herb sprigs such as parsley or cilantro, for garnish
1. Place the butterflied chicken skin down in a container large enough to hold it flat. Drizzle the meat generously with oil and sprinkle evenly with 3 tablespoons of the rub. With your hands, massage the seasonings into the meat.
2. Turn the chicken skin up. Drizzle with more oil, and sprinkle and massage with the remaining 3 tablespoons rub.
3. Preheat an outdoor grill. When the fire is hot, drizzle the chicken's skin side with more oil and place skin down on the cooking grid directly over the heat. Cook until the skin is deep brown and crispy, about 8 minutes, lifting the chicken with a long-handled grill fork or tongs to check.
4. Turn the chicken over, moving it to a portion of the grid away from direct heat. Cover the grill, or cover the chicken with a large metal pan or domed pot lid, and continue cooking until done, about 8 minutes longer. About 5 minutes before the chicken is done, brush its skin generously with some barbecue sauce.
5. To check for doneness, insert an instant-read grill thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh meat. It should register 160ºF.
6. With tongs, transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Use a heavy knife, to cut the chicken into 8 serving pieces. Transfer them to a platter, garnish with herbs, and serve, passing more sauce at the table.
DRY SPICE RUB
Makes about 1 cup
Ingredients Dry Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon mild paprika
1 tablespoon hot paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dried coriander
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Directions Dry Spice Rub:
1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir well.
2. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the pantry to use with poultry, seafood, or meat.
SWEET and SPICY BARBECUE SAUCE
Makes about 4 cups (1 L)
Ingredients Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 organic red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
3 small fresh hot red or green chilies, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and minced
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce:
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, pineapple, and chilies and saute, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
3. In a blender or a food processor, taking care to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid spattering, puree the sauce, working in batches if necessary and transferring them to a nonreactive bowl. Set aside. If you make the sauce ahead, let it cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating. Reheat gently before use.