2000s Archive

‘Leaping Frog’ Chicken: A Little Flattening Goes A Long Way

Originally Published June 2009
Get the most out of chicken by opening it up and flattening it on the grill. It cooks quickly and stays moist and juicy.
leaping frog chickens

There are lots of barbecued chickens in the world,” declared test kitchen director Ruth Cousineau. “But this has to be one of the best. It stays incredibly juicy and cooks evenly, whether on the grill or in the oven.” When she caught me looking dubiously at the large, flattened bird—at least, I think it was a bird—that she had just pulled off the grill, she grinned and said, “But I suppose you want to know how it got this way.” Cousineau had learned the so-called “leaping frog” technique from Latin-cooking authority Maricel Presilla, and she couldn’t wait to reveal how easy it is. (1) With the drumsticks of the chicken facing you, cut between the body and one drumstick, leaving the drumstick attached. (2) Widen the area around the thigh joint and bend the leg back until it pops out of joint but still remains attached. It’s not difficult to do; it’s actually a matter of feel. You’ll see, the next drumstick will go much faster. (3) Exchange your knife for kitchen or poultry shears. Lifting up the breast, cut through the ribs all the way to the shoulder joint, first on one side, then on the other. Now the bird is essentially in two pieces that are hinged at the shoulders. Turning over the chicken so that it is skin side up, open it so that it’s splayed out on the work surface. (4) With the heel of one hand, press down hard on the breastbone to crack and flatten it. (5) Stand back and admire your work. From this topographical perspective, the chicken is huge; you can see all the meat you’re getting. A great advantage to this technique, I realized, is that it utilizes the whole bird. In contrast, a flattening method like spatchcocking involves cutting out the back—handy for the soup pot, obviously, but a real disappointment for anyone at the table who is fond of extracting all those sweet, tender morsels of meat from that neglected bony chicken part. Cousineau picked up a lemon slice and used it to slather the bird with marinade—fragrant with cumin, oregano, allspice, and garlic—working it between the flesh and the loose skin, the way Presilla does. “Every so often, a recipe comes along and changes your life,” she said. “And this one will.”

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