The Chef's Take: Eric Korsh's Free-Range Chicken for Two

"I am not someone who just throws butter at things or sits around reducing heavy cream," says Eric Korsh, Executive Chef of Danny Meyer’s rustic American restaurant, North End Grill. Korsh, who has helmed the kitchens of A-list spots like The Waverly Inn and Calliope, is all about good honest cooking. “This whole idea of healthy food, I think, is about cooking beautiful food — a nice vinaigrette, a lovely lean protein," he said. "I think all good cooking is healthy cooking.”

It doesn’t hurt that his kitchen is equipped with a pair of massive wood-burning grills and a set of hard-wood mesquite charcoal Josper ovens that run at temps between 800 and 1000 degrees each.  From these fire-breathers, Korsh turns out snacks like wood-fired lamb skewers with cucumber yogurt and flatbread, charcoal grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, string beans and anchovies, and a whole daurade with ratatouille.

For this dish, a free-range chicken for two barbecued in the Josper, Korsh uses an air-chilled organic bird that’s been butterflied, brined, and then stuffed with lots of fresh marjoram between the skin and flesh. He coats the skin with olive oil, seasons it with salt and pepper and then cooks it skin-side down in the charcoal oven so it gets a miraculously crackling crust: think potato-chip crusted chicken. It’s served with a simple salad of butter lettuces scattered with fresh herbs like dill and chives, dressed up in a bright champagne vinaigrette.

But Korsh says you don’t need a Josper oven to make this chicken great. For home cooks, he recommends using an outdoor grill, but he says to be sure that the flames have gone out before cooking to avoid incinerated skin. A good cast iron pan heated up high can also do the trick.

Grilled Chicken for Two with Butter Lettuce Salad

Serves 2

2 1/2 lb. chicken (I recommend the air-chilled organic from D'Artagnan)

1/4 cup marjoram leaves, removed from the stem
1 tablespoon olive oil
Black pepper
Brine:
1 cup sugar
1 cup salt
1 gallon water
1/2 bunch of thyme
1 tablespoon juniper
2 dried bay leaves
Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon mustard
Pinch thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic, chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper
Salad:
1 medium head butter lettuce
1 small head white frisée (chicory)
2 tablespoons picked dill, removed from the stem
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons chervil, rough chopped
Method:

Bring all ingredients of brine to a boil and then chill until cold.

Remove back bone from chicken and splay open. Remove all bones except main wing bone and leg bone. (You can also have your butcher do this part for you).

Cover chicken in brine for 18 hours.

Remove chicken from brine (you can keep the chicken raw and cold for a few days if need be).

Carefully dry chicken and separate breast and leg skin from flesh, being careful to never rip the skin. Place picked marjoram leaves in between skin and flesh.

For the vinaigrette, add all the ingredients into a mason jar and shake vigorously (a great home vinaigrette trick).

Prepare the grill, cast iron or heavy bottomed pan. Season chicken with black pepper only. Make sure ALL open flame has died down before placing your LIGHTLY oiled chicken skin side down on the grill. It is important that the grill maintain a medium (NOT HIGH) heat so the skin does not burn before the flesh cooks. Internal temp should reach 165 degrees.

When the chicken is finished cooking, quarter and put on a large platter. The salad ingredients should all be tossed gently together with the vinaigrette and placed next to the chicken.

Photo Credit: Melissa Hom.

Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Edible Brooklyn. She's probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Queens with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.

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