Just plain ole butterflied and grilled chicken is good, but why not "kick it up a notch" (as Emeril Lagasse was always fond of saying)? Butterflied and Grilled Za'atar Chicken combines olive oil with garlic, sumac, za'atar, and citrus zest in an exotically spiced rub. The butterflied and rubbed chicken gets glazed with a pomegranate molasses, citrus juice, and honey mixture. Simple and amazing!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
Don't you love a whole chicken roasted or grilled? It's so simple, but when properly cooked, it can be quite elegant. I'll take that a step further... Butterflied and Grilled Za'atar Chicken is both elegant and exotic. I'm equally comfortable serving it on a weeknight and for guests. Try Butterflied and Grilled Za'atar Chicken with Zereshk and Pistachio Pilaf and Spinach and Persimmon Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette for your next dinner party. All 3 are easily scaled up or down.
You may recall the emphasis I place on keeping a A Well-Stocked Pantry? This grilled chicken may require ingredients you don't typically have - za'atar, sumac, and pomegranate molasses. All 3 are included on my pantry checklist. I love knowing I've got ingredients available
without a store run that allow me to throw together an amazing dish like this one with the whole chicken that is almost always in my freezer! It's freeing... 🙂
🧂 What is Za'atar
So, what then, is za'atar? Do you enjoy trivia (like I do)? "Za'atar" historically refers to Origanum syriacum, considered by Biblical scholars to be the "hyssop" of the Hebrew Bible. Modern day "za'atar" is a generic name for a family of Middle Eastern herbs - oregano, thyme, and savory - but also refers to an fragrant spice mix that includes those herbs, along with sesame seeds, sumac, salt, etc.
While za'atar is most often connected with Middle Eastern dishes, it does find its way into other cuisines as well. This chicken recipe combines za'atar with pomegranate molasses, which is definitely a Persian pantry ingredient. Is Iran part of the Middle East? That's a question for another day...
If you can't find za'atar, and you're dying to make this recipe, you may be able to locate the ingredients to make your own spice mix. I have used both homemade za'atar and commercially prepared za'atar. Keep in mind, this spice mix/condiment is (like so many others) a "loose" recipe. Each kitchen may have a slightly different variation.
If you want to try za'atar before committing to a butterflied and grilled chicken, try mixing it with olive oil and brushing it on flatbread or vegetables as they grill. I think you'll love it!
🍗 Why Butterfly or Spatchcock Chicken
Why go to the extra trouble to butterfly your chicken? The 5 minutes it takes to butterfly the chicken means your chicken cooks more evenly... no dried out breasts or under-cooked thighs!
All you need is a good pair of poultry shears. DO NOT TRY TO USE KITCHEN SHEARS! If you promise not to laugh, see my video. This was my first video (I think), and the quality is poor, but it does a good job of showing the technique.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- 1 whole chicken, spatchocked (butterflied)
- olive oil
- citrus zest - I live in citrus country, and always have choices. I usually use a blood orange and a Meyer lemon.
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- pomegranate molasses - If you can't find pomegranate molasses at your market, you it's easy to make pomegranate molasses.
- citrus juice - I use the zest in the rub, and the juice in the glaze. On photo day, I used a blood orange and a Meyer lemon.
- fresh mint or cilantro
- sliced citrus
- Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Combine the ingredients for the rub. Butterfly the chicken (Please!) Apply the rub (it's more of a paste) all over the bird.
- Grill breast side down at 5:30 400 degrees for 10 minutes until you have nice sear marks. Turn chicken over, and reduce heat to about 300 degrees. Lower the lid.
- Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Brush periodically with the glaze. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Carefully remove to a platter. Tent with foil, and cover with a towel. Allow the chicken to rest 10 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook a bit, bringing it to perfection, and all those amazing juices stay inside (where they belong)!
- Carve and garnish as desired with citrus and herbs. Enjoy!
What kind of citrus should I use? I used a Meyer lemon and a blood orange. I zested both, then juiced them for the glaze. Lemons and oranges work great, and I feel confident that grapefruit would as well. Lime might be risky...
How long is my chicken likely to take on the grill? My small-ish chicken cooked in about 45 minutes. I TOTALLY rely on a meat thermometer!
The leftover chicken is excellent for leftovers in a salad or just warmed up!
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
The flavors in this butterflied and grilled chicken are Persian-inspired, though it doesn't pretend to be authentic. For an elegant yet simple menu, try it with Persian-inspired pistachio pilaf and a spinach and persimmon salad with citrus vinaigrette.
This dish is fabulous with a dry rosé. If you're more of a craft beer drinker, a saison (farmhouse ale) would be a good choice!
With Memorial Weekend, Father's Day, and 4th of July fast upon us, you've the incentive to give this one a try...