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Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The weather has been so nice lately and I have been yearning to grill out on the back deck.  I have also been craving mediterreanean flavors, especially those of Greece; lemon, olive oil, garlic, and oregano.  I had a whole chicken in the refrigerator, but didn't want to cut it up.  Cutting up a whole chicken is not that big of a deal, but I was being lazy and simply didn't want to deal with the mess.  I decided I would spatchcock the chicken, a method of cooking  a whole chicken evenly.  It was fairly simple to do;  using kitchen shears, I cut the backbone out of the chicken and threw it in the freeze for future stock, turned it over, snapped the breast bone to make it lie flat, and skewered the breasts and thighs through and across the bird.  The cock was therefore spatched.

To infuse it with as much flavor as possible, I whisked up a marinade of fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, oregano, mint, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper, poured it over the chicken and marinated it overnight.  While it was innocently marinating, the Mr. Hyde part of my brain went into overdrive, planning an entire Greek meal.  We had beautiful whole squid at work, so brought some home to make Kalamarkia Yemistra  or Greek stuffed squid.

I cleaned the squid, leaving the bodies whole, jiggly cone-shaped squid vessels. The filling was a traditional rice mixture cooked in  a tomato, fresh lemon juice, and white wine stock.  After the rice had absorbed all the flavors of the liquid, I added finely chopped peppers and shredded fresh spinach. Once filled, I skewered the squid pockets shut, sprinkled them with smoked paprika, and grilled them until browned and cooked through.

 I then braised them for an hour in the remaining tomato, lemon, and white wine stock.  For perfect squid tenderness, squid must be either flash cooked  or long braised.  Nothing in between.  The in between cooking time creates shoe leather.

While the stuffed squid Kalamarkia Yemistra braised away in the oven smelling heavenly, I readied the spatchcocked chcken for the grill.  I pulled it out of the marinade, dried it, reserved the marinade as a baster, and showered it with sea salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  I grilled it skin side down to caramelize and flipped it over to fully cook, gently moving it to the cooler side of the grill.  I tossed some lemon halves onto the grill to impart a smoky citrus tent and also for later squeezing. 

The chicken took some time to grill, but the smoky aroma alone made the wait enjoyable.  During the process, I sampled the cook's treats;  marinated livers, gizzards, and hearts.They were delicious,  charred lemony garlicky chicken offal-candy.

I served the chicken with the grilled lemons, the braised squid with its sauce, and topped them both with snipped chives and sea salt.  A Kalamata olive, green pepper, sliced onion, caper, and feta cheese salad provided a bright acidic balance to the voluptuous chicken. 

 The stuffed squid swelled from the filling expanding during the long braise, almost to the popping point.  They were fork tender, savory and rich from the tomato sauce, tart from the lemon wine addition, and earthy from the spinach and peppers.  The chicken was moist and tender, exuding smoke, garlic, lemon, and oregano with charred crackling salty skin.

Greek Surf 'n Turf, with some spatchcocking thrown in.


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