(serves 4, or more depending on size of bird)
Spatchcock is a fancy word for butterflying the whole chicken. It sounds hard, but its really quite simple. There are many advantages to doing this. First and foremost a flattened chicken roasts more evenly, resolving a major issue with roasting chickens without a rotisserie; the thighs take longer to cook then the breast bur ironically when you roast a whole bird it is the breast that is more exposed to heat. So it becomes a trade-off: do you want undercooked dark meat or overcooked and dry white meat. Spatchcocking exposed the legs more and brings the breast lower, saving the day. In addition, the chicken cooks in half the time and is in a more convenient shape for fitting into the fridge.
- Chicken, whole (1)
- Onion (1)
- Potatoes (2)
- Yam (1)
- Carrot (1)
- Brown Sugar
- Fennel Seeds
Preparation Part I
- You have to begin preparation the night before.
- Starting on either side of the bishop’s nose, cut towards the corresponding side of the chicken’s neck (as per the picture below). This is best accomplished using a pair of kitchen shears. You will need to cut through the ribs, but not to worry, these are pretty flimsy in a chicken.
- From the inside of the chicken, snip an incision along the cartilage of the breast bone (it is white) top to bottom to weaken it. Be careful not to pierce the skin on the other side.
- Flip the bird over and press down on the breast with both hands to flatten it. You should end up with the iconic cartoon heart shape chicken breast.
- Prepare a brining solution using 1T salt, 1t brown sugar for every two cups of water. Make enough brine to ensure the entire chicken is submerged. Brine the chicken for 8 hours. If the weather is warm, either add a some ice every once in a while or leave the brining bird in the fridge.
- When the brining is done (presumably the next day), place the bird on a wire tray to dry (as shown below). This will take several hours and again is best done in the fridge. Alternatively you can use a portable fan.
- You must dry the bird properly for it is the key prerequisite to a properly roasted chicken. The chicken is considered sufficiently dry when you put a piece of kitchen towel on it and the paper remains dry but sticks to the skin like a second skin.
- In a small pan, heat 1 heaped t of dried rosemary, 1 heaped t of fennel seeds in 4T of oil until you can smell a strong aroma. Turn off the heat before the herbs get burnt. Leave the pan on the stove while the chicken is drying; more herb flavour will be infused into the oil.
- Cut the potatoes and the yam into chunks. Depending on the variety you may want to peel them first. Cut the carrot into discs and the onion into small wedges, again after peeling them. Place the vegetables on a baking tray.
- Preheat the oven to 205oC (400oF).
- Reheat the infused oil. When the oil becomes less viscous, strain the oil into a container. Add a large knob of butter to the oil. Next dissolve half a t of salt in the butter-oil mixture. Drizzle half of this mixture over the vegetables using a spoon.
- Position the chicken on the vegetables. Shove all the vegetables under the chicken as any piece left exposed will become too burn to eat.
- Paint the remainder of the oil-butter mixture on the chicken with a brush.
- Place the chicken in the over for 45 to 50 minutes depending on its size.
- Remove the pan from the oven without turning it off. Place the chicken on a large serving plate to rest after giving it a light dusting of pepper.
- Roll the vegetables about in the tray to cover them with drippings, space them evenly and place the tray back in the oven for around 10 minutes. When the vegetables have browned sufficiently, arrange them around the chicken on the plate. Pour any remaining drippings over the chicken and serve.
- Purists will secure the chicken with 2 long metal skewers in an X pattern, from the left thigh through to the right breast and vice versa to make the chicken stay completely flat during cooking to ensure even browning of the skin. As you can see from the pictures, the legs were open at an angle while drying but became parallel to each other after cooking. Skewers are also a good idea when BBQing.
- If you like your roast chicken on the salty side, dissolve a full t of salt in the butter-oil mixture. My brining mixture is a relatively weak one as we are brining the whole chicken and not just the breast.
- The back and spine that was cut out is good for boiling stock. If you don’t need it concurrently, you can wrap it in cling film and freeze if for later.