From Gail’s Kitchen

I’ve been making variations of pollo al mattone for a long time, beginning with a recipe I tested while working in the Canadian Living test kitchen many years ago. (That one called for starting the chicken in a large pan on top of the stove and finishing it in the oven.) I’ve tried many different marinades and dry rubs and this one is my favourite. Feel free to improvise, but be sure not to use a marinade that contains sugar or other sweeteners. This method produces the most crispy-skinned, juicy chicken you’ll ever make and will be at its most flavourful if you use an organically raised chicken.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/2 cup Portuguese hot pimento paste or other thick (unsweetened) medium-hot sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed

2 green onions, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), butterflied (see below)

In a small bowl, whisk together the hot pimento paste, garlic, green onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper; set aside.

To butterfly (or “spatchcock”) the chicken: On a large cutting board reserved for meat and poultry, place the chicken breast-side down. Using poultry shears or a sharp chefs knife, remove the wing tips and any excess fat and skin. Cut the chicken along the length of each side of the backbone; reserve the wing tips and backbone for stock. Turn the chicken skin-side up and, holding onto the legs, press down in the centre of the chicken until the breastbone snaps. (You can also have your butcher do this for you.)

Place the flattened chicken skin-side down into a large, nonreactive shallow pan. Spread about 1/4 of the marinade over the fleshy parts of the chicken. Turn over the chicken and spread the rest of the marinade evenly over the chicken. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Separately wrap 2 standard-sized bricks (or one large 1 1/2- to 2-inch-thick cement block) in a double layer of aluminum foil. Lightly grease one side of each brick with oil. Preheat a gas grill over high heat for at least 10 minutes. Turn off the centre burner and decrease the other burners to medium. Lightly grease the grill grates.

Carefully place the chicken, skin-side down, in the centre of the grill. Place the bricks, greased-side down, on top of the chicken, pressing down on the bricks. Close the lid and cook for 30 minutes. Using oven mitts, lift the bricks off of the chicken and set aside, “chicken-side” up. Using tongs, gently pry the chicken off the grates and then turn over the chicken. Replace the bricks, “chicken-side” down. Close the lid and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside and the juices between the drumstick and thigh run clear when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the bricks and set aside. (They can continually be reused with new foil.) Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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