Hot Toad Chicken from the Grill

Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
A crapaud is a toad, which is what this chicken looks like when its backbone is removed and it’s flattened, like a toad that’s about to hop! But don’t worry, it will sit still as you rub butter under its skin, then slather it with a gorgeously piquant mixture of mustard and peppers, à la diable. Why go to the effort of removing the backbone? Well, it’s no effort first of all; once you get the hang of cutting out the backbone, you’ll do it with your eyes closed, in seconds. Second of all by flattening it out, it cooks evenly over the coals and ends up looking intriguingly delicious. Serve this with a delicious micro-brew, one that’s not too dark. ASTUCE: remember to cut the bones at either side of the base of the neck, so that you can flatten the chicken easily. And if you want this truly “devilish” you’ll likely want to increase the amount of spicy smoked paprika and piment d’Espelette. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: poultry shears or heavy chef’s knife, pastry brush (for brushing butter and mustard mixture on chicken), tongs, gloves. PREPARATION AND COOKING TIME: about 1-1/2 hours DIFFICULTY LEVEL: moderate
Servings: 6 servings
  • One 3-1/2 to 4 pound (1.75-2kg) chicken at room temperature,
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • fine sea salt
  • teaspoon ½piment d’Espelette – or to taste
  • teaspoon ½sweet paprika – or to taste
  • teaspoon ¼spicy smoked paprika – or to taste
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted
  • Flat leaf parsley or other herb sprigs – for garnish
  1. Turn the chicken on its breast. Using poultry shears, cut from the tail towards the neck on the right side of the backbone; you’ll need to feel your way through this, but it’s easy to do. Repeat on the other side of the backbone, remove the backbone piece and reserve it (it’s great on the grill). Flip the chicken and remove the giblets, which you can grill or use for something else. If your chicken isn’t completely flat, you can make a short vertical cut at the top of the sternum/base of the neck (this is advisable for true free-run chickens with actual tensile strength; not necessary for flabbier varieties). This will allow the chicken to lay flat.
  2. Carefully loosen the skin from the meat of the chicken, making an effort not to tear or poke a hole in it, by gently inserting a finger between skin and meat. Brush the meat with half the butter as evenly as you can, then pull the skin back over the meat.
  3. Salt the chicken all over.
  4. Build a fire in the grill, and when the coals are red and dusted with ash, divide them in the barbecue, putting half the coals on either side. Set the grill over the coals.
  5. While the grill is heating, whisk together the peppers and the mustard in a small bowl.
  6. Place the chicken, skin-side down, in the center of the hot grill. Cover and cook until the skin begins to turn golden, for 15 minutes (the temperature of the grill should be about 325F; 165C). If the skin isn’t golden at this point, remove the cover of the grill and move the chicken over the coals, watching it until the skin browns nicely, which will take just a few minutes.
  7. Flip the chicken onto the meat side, and rub the skin with 2/3 of the mustard mixture. Cover the grill and cook the chicken for 10 minutes, then flip the chicken back to the skin side. Rub the remaining mustard mixture on the meat of the chicken and sprinkle it with half the breadcrumbs, pressing them into the mustard. Shake a few drops of butter over the breadcrumbs. Cover the barbecue and grill the chicken until it is nearly cooked through, about 15 minutes. The breadcrumbs will be crisp and lightly golden Turn the chicken onto the meat side, sprinkle the skin with the remaining breadcrumbs and press them onto the chicken. Drizzle with the remaining butter. Cover and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs are golden and the meat is cooked through, an additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken from the grill and place it, meat-side down, on a warmed platter. You can serve it immediately, when it’s lukewarm, or at room temperature. Garnish with herb sprigs before serving.

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