Chicken is such a go-to meat that we may feel like we’ve prepared it in nearly every way imaginable. But simple seasonings are all you need—and tips to prepare it in a way that brings out its best. Often the beauty of Italian cooking lies in its simplicity, combining just enough ingredients to produce delicious results without all the muddled flavors, notes Great Meat Cookbook author Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Italians learned centuries ago that grilled food needs little flavor additions as the smoke from the grill combined with a few herbs and seasonings is enough. This recipe uses a simple baste made of chopped, fresh sage, garlic, butter and balsamic vinegar. Aidells says the results are spectacular. Serve with lemon wedges and Butternut Squash and Apple Pouches (recipe below) to complement this comforting meal. Chardonnay is a classic pairing with this dish—try a French white Burgundy or buttery Napa version.
Butterflied Chicken Basted with Sage and Balsamic Butter on the Grill
Makes 6 Servings
2 21⁄2– to 3-pound whole chickens
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sage, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Preheat a covered charcoal or gas grill to medium-hot heat, leaving half the charcoal grill without coal or the middle section of the gas grill without heat.
While grill is heating, make the basting butter by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes until soft but not colored. Stir in sage, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute more. Stir in balsamic vinegar and honey. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, cut each chicken down backbone, just to one side of spinal column and through ribs. Place cut side down and flatten each chicken with heel of your hand.
Brush skin sides of chicken with some of butter baste. Lay chicken skin side down directly over fire and grill about 5 minutes, until skin begins to color and char marks form. Brush inside of chicken with butter and flip over and grill 5 minutes more. Flip chicken skin side up, baste with butter, and move to an area of the grill with no fire. Cover and grill indirectly 15 to 20 minutes, continuing to brush generously with butter baste. Chicken is done when thickest part of thigh is 165°F or when leg joint, when cut into, is no longer pink.
Transfer chicken to a platter and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and Butternut Squash and Apple Pouches.
Butternut Squash and Apple Pouches for the Grill
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup onion, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1⁄4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly grated
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
Combine squash, apples and onion in a mixing bowl. Stir in butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric until everything is well-coated.
Depending on the number of guests, lay 4 to 6 12-inch squares of foil on work surface and divide mixture evenly. Fold into loosely sealed pouches.
Place on grill over medium heat and grill 2 minutes per side. Continue to grill until contents are soft when you press on pouch with the back of a spoon.
Nutrition info Butterflied Chicken Basted With Sage & Balsamic Butter (per serving): Calories 538 (337 from fat); Fat 38g (sat. 16g); Chol 185mg; Sodium 531mg; Carb 2g; Fiber 0g; Protein 45g