Place the chicken, breast side down, on a flat surface. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the chicken over and press firmly on the center of the breast to break the breastbone. You can see a video of this technique, called butterflying, here.
In a large bowl, combine the 3/4 cup kosher salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon pepper, and bay leaves. Add 4 cups very hot water and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the beer and stir well to remove the carbonation. Add about 4 cups ice cubes to cool the brine rapidly. When the ice has melted and the brine is cool, put the chicken in the brine, adding more cold water if needed to cover. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 4 hours.
In a small bowl, mix the 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. pepper with the paprika, cumin, celery salt, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne.
Remove the chicken from the brine and let it air dry for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill with all burners on high. For a charcoal grill, when the charcoal is covered with a white-gray ash, divide it into two piles and set a drip pan between the coals. For a gas grill, turn the burners that will be directly underneath the chicken off and the other burners to medium. (If your grill has only two burners, turn one off and set the other one at medium. You may need to rotate the chicken periodically so that both sides brown.)
When ready to cook, if the chicken is still very wet, blot it dry with paper towels. Brush or rub both sides of the chicken with the oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Tuck the wingtips under the breast. Set the chicken, skin side up, in the center of the grill (or not directly over the heat). Cover and cook until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175º to 180ºF, 40 to 50 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into quarters and serving.
Leftover chicken is delicious in Tex-Mex Chicken Salad.
Try a fruit-forward red wine with spice elements and moderate oak and tannins, like the Rosenblum Cellars Vintners Cuvée XXVIII Zinfandel, California; Bogle Winery's Old Vines Zinfandel, California; Deakin Estate Shiraz, Victoria; or d’Arenberg's "The Footbolt” Shiraz, McLaren Vale.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on four servings;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips