Yesterday I went to see Nora Ephron's movie Julie & Julia. Having cooked some of Julia Childs's famous recipes and having read Julie Powell's book I couldn't wait to see the movie. For any cook this movie was inspirational. My main take away from both women was that you have to be fearless both in life and in the kitchen. It got me thinking about a recipe I had found in the June 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I cut it out and put it aside thinking I wasn't up to the challenge. After yesterday's movie I was ready - I was fearless. The recipe is for Leaping Frog Chicken!
As you can see a picture is worth a thousand words. The technique for flattening the bird or the so-called "leaping frog" technique comes from the Latin-cooking authority Maricel Presilla. You will not believe how easy this is.
Photograph From Gourmet Magazine
- With the drumstick of the chicken facing you, cut between the body and the one drumstick, leaving the drumstick attached.
- Widen the area around the thigh joint and bend the leg back until it pops out. of joint but still remains attached. It's not difficult to do; it's actually a matter of feel. You'll see, the next drumstick will go much faster.
- Exchange your knife for kitchen or poultry shears. Lifting up the breast, cut through the ribs all the way to the shoulder joint, first on one side, then on the other. Now the bird is essentially in two pieces that are hinged at the shoulder. Turning over the chicken so that it is skin side up, open it so the it's splayed out on the work surface.
- With the heel of one hand press down hard on the breastbone to crack and flatten it.
- Stand back and admire your work. From this topographical perspective, the chicken is huge you can see all the meat you're getting.
When cooked this chicken is incredibly juicy and cooks evenly. The taste is fabulous. Now it's time to marinate and cook this wonderful recipe.
Leaping Frog Chicken
1 chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds)
8 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons Argentinean aji molido or hot smoked paprika (pimenton picante)
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 lemon, cut into 6 rounds.
Cut Chickens: Rinse and pat dry chicken. Discard any visible fat from chickens. Cut and flatten chicken as described above.
Marinate Chickens: Puree garlic with 1/8 cup of olive oil, paprika, oregano, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Stir together 1/2 tablespoon marinade and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl and reserve, chilled, for basting.
- Put chicken in a large 4-sided sheet pan. Using a few lemon slices as spreaders, rub some of marinade all over the chicken, then stuff lemon slices with remaining marinade under skin of breasts and thighs. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours (and up to 12).
Grill Chicken: Prepare grill for indirect -heat cooking over medium hot charcoal (medium-high for gas).
- Oil grill rack, then grill chicken directly over coals, turning once (more if flare-ups occur), until browned, about 5 minutes total. Move chicken to area of grill with no coals underneath (for gas turn off one side and turn remaining burner on high) and grill, covered, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade mixture, until chickens are cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes (do not baste during last 5 minutes; discard any leftover basting sauce). Add more charcoal as necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
Cooks Note: The chicken can be roasted in a 4-sided sheet pan in center of oven for about 45 minutes
I found that I was a bit nervous about turning such a large chicken on the grill. It turned out to be easy although there were several flare-ups so have a water bottle handy. I kept the meaty part (breasts) of the chicken pointed toward the side of the grill that was on, so that it was cooked though. As Presilla remarked "[e]very so often, a recipe comes along and changes your life, and this one will." Life is good - enjoy!