Chicken is a protein that most people seem pretty comfortable with, and given that, its dressed up and enjoyed in countless ways. Given all of the variety, some times, returning to the basics almost seems like something new and indulgent. Kind of like having that perfectly roasted chicken. Well even then–that one simple, back to basics kind of dish–there’s a twist to try. And not only is it fun to do, but its also fun to say (if you’re as mature as I am): spatchcocking.
Some of you might be wondering, what on earth does spatchcocking mean? Its a simple technique that basically amounts to flattening a whole bird. Essentially, you remove the major structural bones (backbone, breast plate), and with care, you can then, still keeping the bird entirely in one piece, press it out flat and cook it that way however you see fit (e.g. on a spit, roasted, on the grill, etc).
Since my time seems to be more and more limited these days, I kept it simple and applied a simple herby dijon rub to the spatchcocked chicken before roasting it in the oven with plenty of rosemary. Its just simple comfort food (and everybody loves a good roasted chicken).
By cooking chicken in this manner, you get all the advantages of whole-bird cooking (which I think always has a flavor above and beyond what is achievable when you cook individual parts), and, due to spatchcocking, you dramatically cut the cooking time down compared to roasting a whole chicken (roughly half!) since you’ve opened it up and removed some bone. If this kind of butchery/knife-work intimidates you, I promise, it is so much easier than it sounds and you really should try it. You can have the bird ready to go in under 5 minutes.
- ~4 lb chicken
- ~2 Tbsp soft/semi-melted butter
- ~1 Tbsp dijon
- 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground thyme
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- few sprigs fresh rosemary
With a pair of sturdy kitchen shears, cut along the side of the backbone. Cut right through the ribs (they’ll snap easily) and go all the way from head to tail. Repeat this on the other side of the back bone. Then, you should have no trouble just removing it. Pick out what’s left of the ribs with your hands/shears. Throw all these spare parts into your sack-o’-chicken-parts for stock making.
Now, flip the spineless chicken over and press it somewhat firmly on the breast to flatten it out a bit and make removing the breast plate easier. Flip it back over again so the inner-cavity area is facing you. With a paring knife (or your kitchen shears), cut around the perimeter of the breast plate as close to the bone as you can. Once you’ve cut away at that enough, you should be able to pull that bone right out. While you’re at it, if you can, go for the wishbone as well (if not, don’t worry about it). Finally, now you should have no difficulty flattening the chicken.
Now, with the chicken cut properly, stir everything together in a small bowl for the rub. Poke your fingers underneath the skin of the chicken along the edges in a few discrete places. Work some of the rub in, underneath the skin as well as all over the outside of the bird. Put the chicken skin side up in your roasting pan with sprigs of rosemary all over (on top, underneath, wedges between joints, whatever).
Transfer this to a 400°F oven for 10 minutes (to crisp up the skin a bit), and then drop the heat to 350°F for roughly 25 minutes more (keep an eye on the internal temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer). If you feel like basting, go for it. I didn’t bother and the end result was just as juicy, so I really don’t think you need to trouble yourself with it.
Finally, with the chicken done, cut it up into whatever parts you want to eat and go at it. I served with a side of potatoes, fennel, carrots, and bacon. Enjoy!