Greek-style Chicken Halves

greek roast chicken 2010

Since we’re heading into grilling season big-time, I thought I’d share one of my go-to recipes for moist, golden, flavorful chicken. 

The original recipe came from a friend who is of Greek extraction and whom I knew during my many years as a resident of Astoria, Queens, in New York City. 

Astoria was and is a great place to eat.

Though the ethnic make-up of Astoria has been changing over the years,* there is still a large Greek community, whose roots go back to the 1960’s.  There’s a European feel to this part of Queens, which lies right across the East River from Manhattan.  In the early 1980’s, when I was young and single, I used to take the subway from Midtown Manhattan the few stops home and then pop into a cafe on 30th Avenue for a snack and an iced coffee to people-watch.  Getting off the train in Astoria was like entering a little oasis. 

While the neighborhood has grown, it still feels like a distinct community, and there are wonderful Greek restaurants and stores.  I really miss being able to buy 10 kinds of feta and 30 kinds of olives at Titan, a large Greek market, whose prices now seem mind-boggling considering how much these things cost in the San Francisco Bay Area!

And the pastry shops!  In Astoria you can go have Greek pastry, or even tartufo, an Italian ice cream ball stuffed with fruit and covered with chocolate, in the middle of the night.  Given the heat during Summer, and the state of the wiring in our apartment building that would not support AC, this was a good way for us to cool off.

My son was 8 when we moved to California, so, at 23, he is a more a Californian than anything else, though he likes to go down memory lane via his taste buds.

This chicken recipe is something that really reminds us of warm nights spent in outdoor restaurants eating pita bread with dips and lemony chicken that came to us right off the grill or spit. 

I’ve since adapted my friend’s recipe, but it remains true to its heritage, with bright, straight-forward flavors.

I’ve made this with my Weber charcoal grill and in the oven.  If you grill outdoors and can use the indirect method with charcoal, it works very well,  The wind patterns in my current yard don’t allow me to crank up the heat sufficiently, so I use the direct method with some heavy-duty foil.  I do not yet have a gas grill, so I can’t give you any tips for that.

I use a sheet pan with a flat rack for this if I’m using my oven.  The rack is more or less like a cooling rack.

This is great served with pita wedges and a Greek salad.

*There is now a large Arab community in Astoria/Long Island City, which gives you an even greater variety of food and drink options these days than when I lived there!

Greek-style Grilled or Roast Chicken Halves
   Makes 4 halves

2 nice young chickens, cut in half with poultry shears (use good chicken!)
2 or 3 fresh lemons, squeezed of their juice (no bottled lemon juice!)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1).  Rub lemon juice into chicken halves very well, getting into all the nooks and crannies.
2).  Salt and pepper the chicken halves very well.
3).  Whisk mustard and olive oil together.
4).  Brush mixture over entire surface of chicken, again being thorough.
5).  Place in fridge for a couple of hours.
6).  Roast in oven at fairly high heat (something on the order of 400 deg. F.), skin side up, on a rack, until internal temp reaches 165.  If you grill chicken outdoors, use your best method for browning the skin and keeping it intact.

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