We read about this recipe for chicken marinated in honey, cumin, and vinegar in Penelope Casas’s book The Foods and Wine of Spain. It is, of course, a classic sweet-and-sour or agro- dolce chicken, not dissimilar from many early Roman dishes. What makes it Spanish is the toasted cumin. Instead of brushing the sauce on the bird as it cooks, we marinate it overnight and then grill it, basting as we go. We like to serve this chicken with another Catalan-inspired dish, Baked Eggplant with Honey, Tomatoes, and Cheese, but it would be equally delicious with sautéed spinach with toasted pine nuts and raisins and little roasted or fried potatoes.
Combine all ingredients except the poussins and salt in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the honey is liquefied. Adjust the sweet-and-sour balance as brands of honey and sherry vinegar vary in intensity. Let cool.
To butterfly the poussins, insert a heavy, sharp knife at the neck cavity and carefully cut down one side of the backbone. Cut along the other side to separate it from the body. Pull open the sides of the poussin, turn it skin side up, and press firmly on the breast with the heel of your hand to flatten it. Fold the wings back against themselves so they lie flat. Trim the excess skin at the neck end.
Place the butterflied poussins in a shallow nonaluminum container; cover with the marinade and turn the poussins to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Let the poussins warm to room temperature. Heat the grill or broiler. Remove the poussins from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Sprinkle the birds lightly with salt. Broil or grill, skin side away from the flame, 5 to 6 minutes, basting occasionally with the marinade. Turn and continue cooking and basting until the juices run clear when the leg is pierced with a skewer and the skin is slightly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Do not be alarmed when the poussins turn quite dark, almost black—it is the honey caramelizing. It will taste great.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.