Moist, tender grilled chicken with a Catalan tomato sauce
What I mean here by a young hen is not a poussin, which is technically a bird of less than 28 days, but a spring chicken—a bird around 30-35 days old, or even just a small chicken of standard slaughter age, 42 days or more. The ‘spatchcock’ bit refers to how the bird is butchered for cookery—in this case, the spine is removed using a stout pair of scissors or poultry shears. The bird is then gently flattened out, which makes it ideal for fast cooking on a grill pan, in an oven or over a fire. The birds cook very quickly this way; the skin and bone both react to the heat well to release flavour and the meat stays moist and tender.
1 spring chicken / small roasting bird
¼ bunch of rosemary
For the romesco:
3 cloves of garlic
3 large tomatoes
1 slice stale sourdough
10g smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli flakes
100ml good olive oil
Romesco should really be made with small dried Catalan peppers in place of the smoked paprika, but this is my version of the classic sauce. Roast the tomatoes and garlic in the oven with a little of the oil. After a few minutes add the bread to the roasting tray to crisp up and soak up any oil. Throw all the ingredients bar the oil in the blender and blend on pulse, adding oil as you go to make a thick, but saucy paste. Season to taste and leave to stand for at least 15 mins before using—I sometimes add fresh chopped basil as well, and I like to add more chilli too.
Allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Carefully cut out the spine and spatchcock the bird. Brush with a little oil and sprinkle over with salt, pepper and rosemary leaves.
Heat a large grill pan to a moderate heat—it does not want to be smoking hot. Place the bird skin-side down on the grill. After around 10 mins rotate the bird 90 degrees clockwise, keeping it skin-side down. After a further 10 mins flip the bird over onto the bone side and leave to cook for a further 10 mins. Check the bird to make sure it is thoroughly cooked, but do not dry it out worrying about it—care must be taken when cooking poultry, but we don’t need to turn the meat to arid sawdust through paranoia. Allow the bird to rest for 5 mins before chopping and serving with the sauce.
Recipe: Tim Maddams