Serves 2 to 4 I love Jonathan Waxman so much. Jonathan is a pioneer of California cuisine, but I first met him when I worked at the Washington Park Restaurant in New York. He has remained one of my greatest mentors as a chef and a good friend to this day. Working with JW really took me to the next level as a chef. The simplicity of his food at Washington Park, paired with impossibly luxurious wines, was an education. This is based on his recipe, except I brine the birds in pickle juice rather than a classic brine. Nevertheless, the technique is all his: slow-grilled and skin side down about 90 percent of the way so it’s crispy and holy good, then covered in salsa verde, just as JW taught me. Beyond the bird, I have stolen many a recipe and technique from this great man.
2 Cornish hens or small chickens Pickle juice to cover your birds
¼ cup small-diced shallots ¼ cup small-diced sour pickles ¼ cup chopped capers 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped 1 bunch fresh tarragon, chopped ½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped ½ bunch fresh dill, chopped Zest of ½ lemon 3 cups olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spatchcock your birds: lay the birds breast side down and use kitchen shears to cut down each side of the spine. Remove the spine and the wing tips (you can save these for stock), then turn the birds over, press down on the breastbone, and flatten them.
Place the birds in a large container with a tight-fitting lid, cover with the pickle juice and refrigerate. Soak the birds in the juice for 24 to 48 hours, depending on your taste, then remove and dry the birds off with a clean dish towel.
Preheat your barbecue on medium heat, then put your flattened birds skin-side down on the grill. Turn the heat down to low and close the lid. Cook for about 20 minutes without opening the lid of the barbecue. This will make the skin beautiful and crispy. Flip the birds and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, just to let the heat kiss the flesh and bones. Remove the birds from the heat and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Combine all the salsa verde ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Once your birds have rested, cut them into eighths. Use a knife that you don’t mind cutting through bones with. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs and cut the breasts in half.
Arrange your birds on a platter and generously smother them with the salsa verde.