Changing It Up


I adore roasted chicken – there are few things more delicious than moist, perfumed chicken meat covered in crispy, salty skin. And yet, in a certain sense, roasting lets me down a bit in this last regard. Sure, the skin on the TOP of the chicken is a crispy delight, but what of the rest of it? Well, sitting under the bird like that, juices pooling all around it, that skin is NOT crispy. It’s wet and floppy and while it still tastes okay, it leaves a lot to be desired in the way of texture. Surely, you say, surely there is a way to make that bird crispy all around!

I’m here to tell you, my friends, that there IS such a method, a fabulous way to enjoy crackling skin and moist tender meat all around the bird, and that method is called spatchcocking.

Say what? Yes, spatchcock is a hilarious word and a marvelous one to say, but it’s also a real method of preparing birds that allows for cooking ALL of the skin and, in addition, cooks the entire bird evenly, solving the problem that often arises in roasting of overcooked breasts and undercooked thighs. And what is the secret to this magical method? Easy – flatten the bird!

In order to make a flat chicken the first thing you need to do is cut out the backbone. This is made much, much easier if you have a good sharp knife, obviously.

DSC03363

Just cut down either side of the backbone from neck to tail and remove – personally I put the backbone into my bag of scraps in the freezer for later stock-making purposes.
Spatchcocked!

Now you have a chicken that can lie completely flush against the cutting board, like so:
DSC03365

The actual recipe I used the prepare the now-spatchcocked chicken is one popular in both Italian and Russian cooking (co-evolution of a recipe or weird crossover? Perhaps a future research project…)and is known by the elegant moniker “chicken under a brick.” This is not a metaphor. Ideally, one would quite literally cook the chicken in a skillet, first on top of the stove and then in the oven, with bricks or rocks on top of it. This allows for the most completely even cooking of the chicken since it’s held as flat as a three-dimensional object can get.

However we were notably lacking in spare bricks in the Menace household, so I went with an equally acceptable and (possibly superior?) method – another, smaller skillet, weighted down with beach rocks (which are in far greater supply around here due my beach bum tendencies.)

First I gave the chicken a good massage with olive oil, garlic, and herbs:
DSC03366

Then under its blanket of iron and rocks it went!
The "Brick"

The end results were absolute gorgeous:
Chicken Under a Brick

I served it up with an assortment of root veggies:
Roasted Veggies

Put some crusty bread on the side of that and you’ve got a meal! This was seriously some of the best chicken I’ve ever made.
Chicken Dinner

I realize this is a rather wintry recipe – I’ve been meaning to post it for a while. But fear not, I have some great news – spatchcocking is an absolutely fantastic way to cook a whole chicken on the grill! Here’s a recipe for adobo chicken on the grill – sounds outstanding and has even more thorough instructions on spatchcocking the chicken if you’re still a little nervous about it. If you try it let me know – or better yet, invite me over!

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