Easy Being Green: Salsa verde

This is our interpretation of a vibrant condiment that’s fantastic with chicken, seafood and white-fleshed fish. And boiled potatoes, for that matter.

Googling its name – salsa verde – is likely to lead you to one of two countries: Mexico, or Italy (although many, many places have similar salsas). Here, we’re dealing with the Italian version, with a little nod in the general direction of Mexico.

Despite the bright, strong ingredients that are common to all recipes for salsa verde, we’ve found many versions lack complexity and roundness. We think we’ve come up with one that beats any that we’ve tasted.

Here’s the mise en place:

1 supermarket-size bunch of parsley, leaves and tops of the stems

A bunch of chives – refer to the picture for the amount… sort of hard to quantify!

A bunch (5 or 6) scallions, white and green parts, chopped in thirds

6 or 8 oil-cured olives (we found some astoundingly good low-salt ones)

1 clove garlic

2 or 3 tbsp capers, brined or – if they’re salted – rinsed and soaked for a few minutes

Here’s the twist: one jalapeño pepper, seeded and white veins removed

A few tbsp red wine vinegar

Good-quality, robust extra-virgin olive oil. How much? Enough to make things move smoothly in your blender and to produce a stiff but smooth consistency. Half a cup or more.

So… whizz it up in your blender, then taste for salt and vinegar and add more to correct any huge imbalances in flavour. Let it mellow for half an hour or so, then fine-tune the flavour.

A couple of tablespoons of this stuff next to a poached or grilled chicken breast, or broiled cod… mmm. And: you can freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray and have some on hand whenever it’s needed.

C is for Chicken, Cooked Under a Rock

Edward Gorey might have appreciated the various indignities inflicted upon our poor dinner hen. Spatchcocked, submerged in brine, and placed atop burning coals, weighted down with a heavy stone. Shudder. He might also have appreciated the end product: pollo al mattone.

We started with a fine little free range bird – a fryer (around 3 lbs) rather than a larger roaster – from The Friendly Butcher.

She spent a few hours in this brine, from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home – but definitely would have benefited from a few more hours – maybe 6 or 8 in total.

Here is – should we name her? Do let’s. In deference to her roots, something Italian, by way of a backyard grill in New Jersey. Maybe… Carlotta? Okay. Carlotta it is. Carlotta Mattone.

Right. Having dried, oiled, and sprinkled the hapless hen with some paprika, we’re off to the BBQ, where we have lit a chimney full of lump hardwood coals and strewn them across one half of the grill. Having heated and lightly oiled the grill rack, we place the chicken thereupon, breast-side down and facing bravely toward – but not on – the side with the coals. And the coup de grace: a 5-lb patio stone, of roughly the same dimensions as the bird, wrapped in a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Judging by the time stamps on the photos, we grilled the bird (lid closed) for 12 minutes, rotated it 90′, waited another 12 minutes, then flipped her over for a final 10 minutes of cooking.

Almost there - we're aiming for 165'.

Done like dinner.

And here it is, having rested for 15 minutes or so (so much better warm than it is piping hot) and anointed with olive oil.

She drove a Trans Am, but ended up a Firebird.