Smoky Spatchcock Chicken with Casablanca Couscous Salad
From Tangier in the north to Casablanca along the Atlantic coast, onto Fez, Rabat and Marrakesh in the cultural heart of Morocco, there may be no other region of Africa whose indigenous fare has been so globally-influenced over the last 2,000 years. From the Berbers who first inhabited this territory and its breathtaking landscape, to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Persians, Romans, Moors, and even current day Spanish and French – each have their own distinct stake in what we now recognize as modern Moroccan cuisine.
This Spatchcock-grilled chicken is an ode to traditional North African methods of livefire food preparation and is seasoned with a fragrant blend of herbs and spices commonly recognized by those who’ve been fortunate enough to travel through and eat their way across the most western portion of the Greater Maghreb.
The bird is butterflied and slowly barbecued with the essence of oak wood and basted in olive oil to succulent, tender perfection. Requiring only a nominal degree of preparation time and an elementary set of grill skills, this regionally-inspired dish is carved to serve and plated atop a traditional couscous salad prepared with dried Medjool dates, apricots and toasted hazelnuts. Finished with a garnish of lemon zest and mint leaves, this recipe is perfect as a light main course to impress upon date night or as the conversational centerpiece of your next backyard barbeque.
-Cheers and enjoy the taste of Morocco, David
- 1 4-5 pound whole fresh chicken trimmed and giblets removed
- Olive oil plus additional for basting
- 3 tablespoons Ras el Hanout seasoning store-bought spice blend
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black peppercorn to taste
- 1 lemon zest
- Mint leaves to garnish
- 2 cups oak wood grilling chips soaked 1 hour in water prior to grilling
- 1 12 ” sheet of aluminum foil
- Casablanca Couscous Salad recipe below
- Casablanca Couscous Salad with Medjool Dates and Dried Apricot
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups multi-colored couscous
- 1/2 cup red onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3/4 cups Medjool dates finely chopped
- 1/4 cup dried apricots finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry roasted and salted hazelnuts chopped
- 1/2 cup mint leaves packed
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn to taste
Using razor-sharp kitchen shears, cut down either side of the chicken’s backbone. Remove the spine and discard. Flip the bird breast-side up, press into the breast bone and flatten the chicken. Drizzle the chicken inside and out with olive oil, massage a liberal degree of the Ras el Hanout across all portions of the chicken, cover in plastic wrap and rest at room temperature 30 minutes prior to grilling.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium-high using the 2-zone cooking method by turning one side of the grill to high heat (direct zone) and leaving the other side off (indirect zone). Wrap woodchips in tin foil, then perforate tin foil packet several times with a fork or knife. Apply packet to back corner of the direct heat grilling zone. Once wood packet is billowing with smoke the grill is ready.
Simply rest the spatchcocked chicken over the direct zone grates breast-side down and grill for 10-12 minutes with the grill lid closed. Turn the chicken over and slide to the cooler, indirect zone. Grill for an additional 20-30 minutes, basting intermittently with oil, until the internal temperature of the dark thigh meat reaches 160F and juices run clear.
Remove chicken from the grill and transfer to a cutting board, loosely tent with tin foil and rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve the bird in half length-wise through the breast bone and plate upon a bed of prepared couscous. Season additionally to taste, garnish with lemon zest and mint leaves. Serve.