Why cook a flattened chicken? Well, it cooks much quicker than an unflattened one for starters. The meat is marinaded for at least two hours - but don't be put off, because the prep is straightforward and can be done the night before. Oh and it tastes delicious.
This delicious dish doesn't try to be elegant. The cooked flattened bird is slightly unwieldy and you might hesitate how to serve it - I recommend putting it into the middle of the table and letting everyone tear into it at will. It's tender enough to make it easy to get off the bone - the one I cooked on Sunday was picked clean.
6 tablespoons of olive oil
handful of peppercorns
heaped teaspoonful of salt
Put the chicken breast side down and use a very sharp knife or a pair of chicken shears to cut from the neck cavity right down to the tail. Turn the bird over and snip or cut the skin between the legs and wings and the breast. Lean on the legs or wings the set them open away from the breast, giving a butterfly shape. Lean on the breast bone to help flatten the bird.
Now comes the bit that can be as dangerous or not as you like. The traditional approach is to beat the chicken with a meat mallet, to tenderise the meat and flatten it out. I place the chicken on a strong tray, I put the tray on the floor, place a large strong board on top of it and I jump on it. NOTICE Please take care - it's slippery! You can just stand on the tray and wriggle, it is still slippery. You end up with a much flatter bird.
Put the bird in a large pot or roasting tin. Crush the peppercorns lightly - under the side of a broad bladed knife or using a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle crushed peppercorns and salt over the chicken, follow with the juice from one lemon and the olive oil. Rub the mixture all over the bird and leave, turning and basting every now and then. Leave for at least two hours.
Cook for 20m on a barbecue or under a pre-heated hot grill, turning from time to time and basting with the marinade.
Cooking the chicken on a barbeque gives a wonderful smoky taste. Grilling it gives a cleaner flavour. The simple marinade of lemon, olive oil, pepper and salt gives a lovely tang. In the summer it goes wonderfully with a pasta or rice salad, in the winter potatoes go well.
The only variation I'd go for is adding garlic, crushed, which is very tasty too