Butterflying a whole chicken and then weighting it with bricks on the grill is an old Italian technique that allows for a more even cooking of the bird.

In Britain, butterflying is called “spatchcocking” (some say the term derives from “dispatch the cock,” though no one knows for sure), similarly using sharp kitchen shears to remove the backbone and usually the breastbone so the bird can open up and lie flat.

Good kitchen scissors are one of the best investments you’ll ever make. I swear by Joyce Chen’s model.

Serve the chicken with eggy potato salad and sliced tomatoes interleaved with mozzarella and basil leaves for a Labor Day (or any other day) meal. Have someone bring something made with native blueberries for dessert.

GRILLED BUTTERFLIED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC AND SAGE

The garlic and sage mixture serves as both marinade and sauce. Substitute chopped rosemary or thyme if you prefer.

Servings: Four

2/3 cup olive oil

8 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, plus sprigs for garnish

One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken

SALT AND PEPPER RUB:

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

Combine oil, garlic and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes until garlic is a very pale golden color. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and sage. Cool.

To butterfly chicken, cut up both sides of the backbone with kitchen shears and discard it. Open chicken like a book, skin side down, and remove breastbone with kitchen shears. Leave whole or cut chicken in half. Tuck wing tips under.

Place in a dish and spoon about half the marinade over, turning to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours. Reserve remaining marinade to use as sauce.

Prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium. Remove chicken from marinade and smear pepper rub over both sides, rubbing some under breast skin. Place chicken skin side down on grill (breasts facing cooler outside edges, legs facing toward hotter center) and place two foil-wrapped bricks on top. Cover grill and cook until skin is nicely browned and grill marks appear, about 20 minutes.

Wear an oven mitt to remove bricks, turn chicken, replace bricks, and cook for 15 minutes. Test dark meat for doneness; if not quite cooked through, turn again and continue to cook for a few minutes until meat is no longer pink. Remove to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut into serving-size pieces, slicing some of the breast so it can be distributed evenly. Pour remaining sauce/marinade over, garnish with sage sprigs, and serve.

NEW POTATO SALAD

Everyone needs a great basic potato salad recipe, and this is mine. Dress it up by serving on a bed of lettuce and garnishing with tomatoes and/or radishes.

Servings: Six

2 eggs

2 pounds waxy potatoes cut in 2-inch chunks

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped red or sweet white onion

2/3 cup mayonnaise, plus additional if necessary

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or dill, or a combination

Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Peel and coarsely chop.

Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until just barely fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch cubes. (Leave some skins on or remove them.)

Toss in a large bowl with the vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Add celery, onion and chopped hard-cooked eggs to potatoes. Add mayonnaise and mustard, and stir gently but thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

Before serving, stir again to redistribute the dressing, adding more mayonnaise if it seems dry, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey 2006). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.