Bob Hart’s recipe for Char-Grilled Chicken
MASTERING CHAR-GRILLED CHICKEN.
In assessing all the new barbecued chicken dishes emerging from Aussie barbecues – something I have been busily (and greedily!) doing over winter – citrus-spiced grilled chooks have emerged as clear winners.
And if there is a barbecue pattern emerging this Spring, it is that – as with the steaks we discussed last week – it is the quality of the meat that will establish the success or otherwise of all dishes. So seek out a farm-raised, free-range chook from your butcher, and avoid anything sealed in a plastic bag, which will be boring. And go for a large one – say, a size 20 (2kg).
In this dish, the chickens are simply butterflied, knocked into two halves, and then placed in a lively citrus marinade for a minimum of several hours but, ideally, overnight. The chooks are then quickly grilled and enthusiastically eaten. Try this:
Make a marinade by blitzing, in a blender or food processor, a chopped, red onion with five chopped garlic cloves, a cup of fresh orange juice, another of fresh lime juice, 2 tbs dried oregano, 2 tsp ground cumin and a cup of lightly packed coriander leaves with their tender stems. Add one or two hot, fresh chillies or a generous pinch of chilli flakes if you enjoy a bit of heat, but this is optional. Add 2 tbs EV olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put at least half a cup of this aside and use it to baste the cooking chicken.
Butterfly your chook of choice by cutting along either side of the backbone and removing it, along with the neck at one end and the pointy bit at the other. Now, split the bird through the breastbone, giving you two, neat halves.
Prick the skin of these with a sharp fork or skewer, and place them in a large, resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over them. Close the bag, excluding most of the air, and work the chicken halves to ensure they are well coated with the marinade. Refrigerate.
Prepare a hot (200C) grill. Add a few pieces of hickory or pecan to the fire if you are cooking over charcoal, and place the chicken halves, skin down, on the grill. Cover.
After about 10 minutes, baste with the marinade (still skin side down) and turn each piece through 90 degrees. After another 10 minutes, baste again with the remaining marinade and flip the chicken. After another 10 minutes, baste again and turn through 90 degrees. And after a final 10 minutes, baste the chicken again and, if you think it needs it, flip over. You can reduce the grill temp slightly if you feel your chook is getting too dark,
By this time, the internal temperature of the chicken should be reading, in the thickest part of the leg or thigh, around 75-80C. And if not, continue to cook and monitor until that temperature is achieved.
Finally, rest the chicken for 20 mins at least, loosely tented in foil, before jointing and serving the pieces with fresh lime wedges to squeeze over the golden bird.