Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Clodagh McKenna, an Irish chef who is growing her food empire across the world. And we need only look down Grinnell Plaza to find the next audience eager to be conquered: a sold-out cooking class at Verdello.

McKenna’s dedication to the craft is clear: She agreed to teach the class while on vacation. The chef is visiting Canyon Ranch with her partner, Harry Herbert, the cousin of Big Horn’s Paul Wallop (and the son of an English earl who grew up in Highclere Castle, the real “Downton Abbey” estate).

But beyond her passion for food and hospitality, the class reveals McKenna’s kindness. She is offering her talents free of charge, allowing Verdello to donate 100% of the proceeds to The Food Group.

While her class is sold out, you can taste the chef’s fresh flavorful cuisine with her provided recipe for Lemon, Harissa and Olive Spatchcock Chicken with Bulgar Wheat, Cucumber and Dill Salad. Your summer table will thank you.

And don’t worry, I’ve already Googled “spatchcock” for you. Alan Davidson explains in The Oxford Companion to Food: “The theory is that the word is an abbreviation of ‘dispatch the cock,’ a phrase used to indicate a summary way of grilling a bird after splitting it open down the back and spreading the two halves out flat.”

Pro tip: Watch McKenna cook another spatchcock chicken recipe on “Rachael Ray” in September 2016 (video here). Not just for the chef’s Irish accent — though that is definitely an ingredient of her charm.


Lemon, Harissa and Olive Spatchcock Chicken with Bulgar Wheat, Cucumber and Dill Salad

By Clodagh McKenna

For the chicken:

1 whole organic or free-range chicken, about 3 pounds
2 preserved lemons, chopped
6 garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup pitted black olives, chopped
1 tablespoon harissa
½ cup olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the salad:

¾ cup bulgar wheat
½ cup boiling water
1 cucumber, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 tablespoon chopped mint
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 (approx. 350°F).

2. To spatchcock the chicken, place it breast-side down, with the legs toward you. Using sturdy scissors cut along either side of the backbone to remove it, cutting through the rib bones as you go. Open the chicken out and turn over. Flatten the breastbone with the heel of your hand so that the meat is all one thickness. Add the preserved lemons, garlic, olives, harissa and olive oil in a bowl and mix well.

3. Place the spatchcocked chicken in a roasting tray and rub the preserved lemon and harissa mix all over the chicken. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

4. While the chicken is roasting, prepare the bulgar wheat salad. Place the bulgar in a heatproof bowl and pour-over the boiling water to cover. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave to soak for 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff up with a fork, then stir in the cucumber, spring onions, and herbs. Whisk the oil, lemon juice and garlic together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the bulgar wheat salad and toss to coat.

5. Transfer the roast spatchcocked chicken to the center of a large, warmed platter, and spoon the bulgar wheat salad around the chicken to serve.


Editor’s note: Learn more about McKenna’s visit to Sheridan County in Wednesday’s edition of SCENE in The Sheridan Press.