Today’s Meat Molar Mystery seemingly is a cardiologist’s nightmare – a recipe calling for pounds and pounds of salt. However, this cooking style stolen from South America’s cowboys of the plains, or gauchos, uses the copious amounts of sodium not necessarily to flavor the chicken, but to create a heat-radiating, moisture-sealing, rock-hard encasement. When cracked open, the chicken inside is tender, juicy and super flavorful, with only a hint of salt despite the pounds of Na piled on top. We’ve made this in an oven, on a grill, and in a smoker, so feel free to give it a go no matter what your heat source. It’s also very simple, simple enough for even grads of directional schools, but you will have to get your hands a bit dirty.
Now gauchos normally just consumed beef, in insane quantities, making them uber-hombres in our opinion. We guess they had a mouth full of solely meat molars – rotting, unbrushed meat molars. However we’re making the assumption from this recipe that during their occasional dust-up with caudillos, the Spanish, or even fellow gauchos, they came away with some feathered fare. Or, this could just be a recipe North American Anglos decided to pin on the gauchos. Either way, from the pampas or not, it’s an amazing eat.
Large mixing bowl
Cast iron skillet or flat – or – a pan that can survive heat – or – a homemade heavy duty foil pain
butchers twine or a metal skewer
One 3-5 pound whole chicken – cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
Roughly 9 lbs of Kosher or coarse sea salt
One lemon, halved
1/2 pound fresh fennel, chopped
6-7 garlic cloves
Crushed black pepper
Preheat grill or oven to 500 degrees.
Mix salt, eggs and water until it is slushy, like good snowball snow, and can be packed.
Rub olive oil on chicken, try and get the whole exterior.
Crush half the garlic.
Rub garlic, black pepper and a bit of cayenne all over the bird. Sprinkle thyme and rosemary on it.
Stuff the lemon, fennel, remaining garlic, rosemary and some pepper inside the chicken, packing tight and all the way to the cavity opening.
Either truss the bird tightly or skewer the flesh around the opening together.
Put about 1/4 to 1/3 of the salt on the skillet/pan, creating a layer about 1″ deep and just wider and longer than the chicken.
Place the bird on top and start piling the remaining salt on.
Form a dome over the bird with the salt, packing tightly and ensuring no meat is exposed.
Put it in the oven or on grill, if in oven you want the shelf on the lower third.
Cook for approximately 1 hour, until the salt is browning and crusted. Internal temp must reach 170. On a smoker, where temp is lower, cooking time will be longer.
Let the dish rest for 10 minutes.
Crack off salt with a hard object (this is messy), and brush away the remaining salt.
Carve and serve.