This recipe with the strange name is basically a spicy, mustardy spatchcocked chicken cooked over coals. It comes from the book, French Grill, written by Susan Herrmann Loomis, published in 2018.
I’ve heard mention of Ms. Loomis over the years, an American who traveled to France to learn how to cook so she could write about French cuisine as a young journalist. I’ve even had friends who went to France for one of her cooking schools.
Ms. Loomis is the award-winning author of In a French Kitchen, memoir On Rue Tatin, just-published Plat du Jour, and many others. According to her professional website, Dancing Tomatoes, her culinary workshops are at her home in Paris.
French Grill is a wonderful book of what you’d expect – grilled French food. She begins in the book’s introduction to explain how the French invented barbecue. I don’t really care if they did or not, I’m just enjoying the recipes!
I chose the devil’s hot toad chicken mostly because of the name! The French name is Le Poulet de Diable en Crapaud – a crapaud is a toad, which is what a spatchcocked chicken resembles. The “piquant” mixture of mustard and peppers are the a la diable part of the dish (devil).
The Devil’s Hot Toad Chicken From French Grill
1 chicken, about 3.5 – 4 pounds, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melte3d
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon spicy smoked paprika, or to taste
1/3 cup Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted
Flat leaf parsley, or other herb sprigs, for garnish
Turn the chicken on its breast. Using poultry shears, cut from the tail toward 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 back alone; remove the backbone piece and reserve it.
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 lie flat. Or, smack it with a skillet.
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.
Salt the chicken all over.
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. Place a drip pan in the center. Set the grill over the coals.
While the grill is heating, whisk together the piment d’Espelette, both paprikas, and mustard in a small bowl. I cut back a bit on the mustard for my husband’s sake, and added mayonnaise for the full volume.
Place the chicken, skin side down, in the center of the hot grill. Cover and cook until the skin begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes (the temperature of the grill should be about 325 degrees F). 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.
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 bread crumbs, pressing them into the mustard.
Cover the barbecue and grill the chicken until it is nearly cooked through, about 15 minutes. Turn the chicken onto the meat side, sprinkle the skin with the remaining bread crumbs and press them onto the chicken.
Drizzle with the remaining butter. Cover and continue to cook until the bread crumbs are golden and the meat is cooked through, an additional 10 minutes. Surprisingly, the bread crumbs remained on the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the grill and place it, meat side down, on a warmed platter.
You can serve it either immediately, when it’s lukewarm, or at room temperature.
Garnish with herb sprigs before serving. I served the chicken with a tomato and shallot salad, with some white balsamic.
I used bread crumbs from a very hearty grainy bread. I think they were a good choice.