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Sunset's Birds on the Grill

If you are cooking multiple birds, you'll need a roasting pan and four bricks. If you are cooking only one chicken, it's probably easier to use two foil-wrapped bricks and put them directly on top of the chicken. Allow about 35 minutes for quail and 45 minutes cooking time for Cornish hens and chickens.

2 chickens (about 3 pounds each), 4 Cornish hens (about 1 3/4 pound each) or 8 quail (4 1/2 to 6 ounces each)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsle
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
Lemon wedges

Remove neck and giblets from chickens, hens or quail; reserve for another use or discard. Pull off and discard any lumps of fat. With poultry shears, cut along one side of backbone on each bird, cutting back completely in two; for chickens, cut along other side of backbones as well and discard backbones. Rinse birds well and pat dry. Pull birds open and set skin side up on a flat surface; with your hand, press birds to flatten.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, mix lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, dried red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub mixture all over birds. Place in dish, overlapping and stacking as needed. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Set birds -- skin side down and side by side -- on a 12-by-17-inch section of well-oiled barbecue grill over a solid bed of medium coals or medium heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 4 to 5 seconds). Set a 12-by-17-inch roasting pan, right side up, on birds. Distribute 4 clean bricks (5 to 6 pounds each) evenly in pan.

Cover grill and cook until skin is well browned (lift pan to check), about 20 minutes for chickens, 18 minutes for hens and 12 to 15 minutes for quail. Remove weighted pan and, with a wide spatula, turn birds over. Cover grill and cook without weighted pan until meat at thigh bones is no longer pink (cut to test), 5 to 10 minutes longer for chickens and hens, 2 to 5 minutes for quail.

Transfer birds, skin up, to a platter. With a knife or poultry shears, cut chickens into quarters and hens into halves if desired. Serve with lemon wedges. Add salt to taste. Serves 4 to 6.

Sunset Magazine

Sunday, October 14, 2001

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