Grilled Poussin with Shallot-Balsamic Butter

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| Servings: Serves 4

Author’s Notes

Wonderfully aromatic, this French-inspired dish will make you say ooh la la. A poussin is a young, tender chicken that weighs about 1-¼ lb. If you can’t find them, you can substitute other small birds (see tip). Balsamic glaze is available at most supermarkets near the vinegar.

Source: Fine Cooking


For the seasoning

  • 4 large cloves garlic, mashed to a paste (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil; more for the grill
  • 4 poussin (1 to 1-½ lb. each), spatchcocked

For the glaze

  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½  cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs. green olive tapenade

For the butter

  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tsp. balsamic glaze
  • ½ tsp. Espelette pepper or hot paprika
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened

For the garnish

  • Chopped fresh tarragon
  • Flaky sea salt (optional)


Season the birds

  1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, tarragon, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  2. Rub the poussin all over with the oil, then with the seasoning, using most of it on the meatier side of the birds.

Make the glaze

  1. In a small saucepan, whisk the apple juice, wine, and tapenade over high heat, and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

Make the butter

  1. In a small bowl, combine the shallot, balsamic glaze, Espelette pepper, and salt, and allow to
    sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the butter, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Grill and glaze the poussin

  1. Prepare a high (500°F to 600°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Oil the grate.
  2. Grill the poussin, breast sides down, until the skin has nice grill marks; 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the birds over, brush with the glaze, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes on that side.
  3. Finish grilling the birds over indirect heat:
    For a gas grill, simply turn off all but one of the burners and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 350°F.
    For a charcoal grill, briefly remove the birds from the grill, then remove the grill grate. Use long-handled tongs to bank the hot coals to one side. Put the grate in place. Place an oven thermometer on the grate over the cooler area, close the lid, and let the coals burn down until the thermometer reads about 350°F.
  4. Transfer the birds to the cooler side of the grill and continue cooking, breast side up, brushing with the glaze every couple of minutes until cooked through (160°F), 25 to 30 minutes. (It’s fine if you run out of glaze before the birds are cooked.) You may want to rotate the position of the birds so the same ones are not always closest to the heat.

Butter, garnish, and serve

  1. Transfer the birds to a cutting board, breast side up, and spread with some of the butter. Tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut into halves or quarters, garnish with the chopped tarragon and salt, and pass the remaining butter at the table.


You can substitute 8 whole or semiboneless quail, 4 squab, 2 game hens, or even 2 small chickens for the poussin, though cooking times will differ. (If using semiboneless quail, consider skewering them, using two skewers threaded through each side for easier handling.)  The seasoning rub and glaze can both be made several hours ahead; keep covered at room temperature until ready to use. The butter can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before serving.