Friday, May 21, 2010

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola, Roman Style

Cooking Italy Assignment
Grilled Chicken alla Diavola, Roman Style, p336

Being enamored of roasting or grilling chickens that have been butterflied (aka spatchlocked), I first tried this recipe last fall, grilling it in the oven. This time, we grilled it on the bbq. I find spatchlocking a great way to treat a bird that will be grilled or roasted. For a small amount of effort there are several of advantages. The cooking time is shorter and the meat cooks more evenly, i.e., the legs and breast are done at the same time.

Hazan's description of the butterflying process seems to me to be over-complicated. Since I do this quite frequently I largely ignored her instructions. It's actually quite simple to do with a good pair of kitchen shears. You cut along one side of the backbone (I usually start from the tail end). You can use a knife, but the scissors seems easier to me. When you get to the hip joint, you kind of feel around so you can cut between the spine and the thighbone. (Of course you can cut right through whatever bone you happen upon, but this takes a lot more strength.) You can cut the backbone out entirely or you can leave it attached. I guess I'm fairly inconsistent about this; this time it stayed on. (I recently saw instructions that used the cut-out backbone to make a jus, really a bit of stock, while the chickie was roasting. If I run across this again, I'll try to remember to add a link here, since that was a good idea, I thought.)

With the backbone separated or removed, turn the chicken over, opening it out as best you can, and flatten the bird by pressing hard on the breastbone with the heel of your hand. You'll hear bones and cartilage snapping when you do this. Now you can tidy it up a bit, tuck the last wing joint behind the bird and be sure the legs are laying nice and flat.
Since my shears aren't very good with skin, I find it handy to have a small, sharp knife available for cutting any little bits that need cutting.

This recipe called for a tablespoon of black peppercorns to be crushed and spread over the skin of the bird. I put about half of this amount under the skin, directly on the breast, thigh, and leg meat. (This is a good way to get any seasoning close to the flesh. At the top of each breast half, there's a membrane that holds the skin to the meat. Gently break this and you can carefully get your fingers under the skin. Work your way down to the the leg, where you might need to break through another membrane. Distribute whatever herbs and seasonings you have as evenly as possible.) Here we are a-marinating with pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil:

After the chick marinated a good while, Ed grilled it on the barbecue.

On the right you can see the start of the flames that resulted from the oil content of the marinade. (On the left is a packet of sliced potatoes and onions, mixed with a strong lemon vinaigrette.) We didn't watch the clock, but I'd guess it took about 25 minutes to grill the chick (and the potatoes). The skin was quite burned from the flaring flame, but the flesh was delicious, tender and juicy.

This is definitely a do-again recipe, but I think I'll stick with grilling in the oven, since the oil content of the marinade is a bit difficult to control on the barbecue.


  1. All this sounds like a wonderful idea, but I am wondering if it is really worth all this me this sounds messy. Might try it when I have more time this summer and school is out and I am not teaching...right now it just sounds like a lot of work. You make it all look interesting and possibly worth it, however!

  2. Kayte, butterflying is not really as bad as it sounds, although it does involve some interaction with your chickie. But then it cooks faster and more evenly.

    Rubbing any flavorings under the skin, where you really get intimate, is an extra, but only for people who like to play with their food perhaps.

  3. How interesting the differences between your results and Angela' fun to get to be one of the tie-breakers!! Loved your description of butterflying! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Angela's was definitely prettier than mine, with with charred skin. But the flesh was delicious. We don't eat the skin much anyhow.