Karen Martini's chargrilled chicken with fennel, lettuce and chipotle mayo

Chargrilled chicken with grilled lettuce hearts, lemon and chipotle mayo.
Chargrilled chicken with grilled lettuce hearts, lemon and chipotle mayo. Photo: William Meppem
Dietary
Dairy-free

Barbecuing chicken is such a summery pastime and this relaxed dish boasts big, gutsy flavours that are made for sharing outside. There's something irresistible about the combination of meat cooked on the bone – so moist and succulent – with the smokiness of doing it over real coals. The key here is to bring the chicken to room temperature for an hour or more before you start. Cooking fridge-cold chicken affects the cooking time and yields a less tender result.

Ingredients

1.4kg chicken, butterflied

freshly ground black pepper

4 gem/baby cos lettuces, halved lengthways

1 lemon, cut in half crossways

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 handfuls mint leaves

For the marinade

4 fresh bay leaves, finely sliced

2 tbsp salt flakes

2 tbsp fennel seeds

4 garlic cloves, skin on*

80ml extra virgin olive oil

For the chipotle mayo

250ml thick mayonnaise

2½ tbsp chipotle sauce

2 tsp sherry vinegar

Method

1. From the underside of the bird, run a knife along the side of each thigh bone, making a 1cm-deep incision either side of the bone to allow the marinade to seep in and ensure even cooking.

2. For the marinade, pound the bay and salt to a rough powder using a mortar and pestle, then add the fennel seeds and grind. Pound in the garlic, then stir in the oil to make a rough paste, leaving any garlic skins in it.

3. Rub the marinade all over the chicken, then season with pepper. Stand at room temperature to marinate for at least 1 hour.

4. Preheat a barbecue, ideally using coals, but gas will work, too.

5. Cook the chicken skin-side down over low, even coals (or on a medium heat) for 25 minutes, then turn over and cook for 20 minutes covered loosely with foil (to more evenly distribute the heat). Then move to a dish in a warm place, lightly cover and rest for 20 minutes before serving.

6. Meanwhile, grill the lettuce and lemon halves, cut side down, for 3 minutes. The lettuce will char and wilt slightly, but still hold its shape.

7. For the mayo, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.

8. Dress the grilled lettuce with the balsamic and arrange on a serving plate with the rested chicken. Pour the chicken resting juices over the bird and the lettuce, sprinkle over the mint and serve with the charred lemon and mayo.

*Tip: I like to leave the skin on the garlic, which further intensifies a flavour that's already quite punchy, thanks to the bay leaves and fennel seeds.