Not too long ago, Andrew had a birthday. The minute I’d seen it advertised, I’d ordered Dorie Greenspan’s latest book “Everyday Dorie”(A Rux Martin Book Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018) as a gift. It turned out the book took 244 pages before landing at “Desserts”. So it was kind of letdown for its recipient. Andrew, the Baker at our house, pretty well confines himself to sweets and not the savory baking up front in the book. At least when he gets to page 244, he’ll not be disappointed. There he’ll find 28 Baking recipes. These follow the premise of the book which Ms. Greenspan describes as follows: “These recipes, most of which are simple, turn out food that’s comforting, satisfying, inviting and so often surprising”. But first it was my turn.
Last Sunday, I asked Andrew to peruse “Everyday Dorie” and pick out a recipe for our Sunday dinner. He landed on Spatchcocked Chicken, drawn in by a glorious photograph, one in a series of beautiful food pictures that run throughout the book. It just so happens that Spatchcocking is all the rage at the moment. I’ve been seeing it frequently, most recently on a British Cooking Contest where speed is of the essence. The technique flattens and butterflies the chicken making it cook in less time than a whole chicken and pretty well assuring a crispy skinned bird—something I find essential to any kind of roasted chicken. As to the meat, it’s bathed in an herbed butter so it’s juicy and flavorful. Spatchcocking requires the removal of the backbone of the chicken. This is best achieved with a good set of poultry sheers although it can be accomplished with a knife. You work on both sides of the backbone and once its removed, you use your hand to flatten the chicken as much as you can.
The other technique used in making this recipe is another wildly publicized way to cook. That is using the Sheet Pan. I have come to like this technique very much. It allows you tremendous freedom to cook virtually anything all in one pan. That’s where I departed from Ms. Greenspan’s explicit directions. Sheet pan cooking lets you do that. Greenspan herself allows as how you can mass pieces of fennel, celery, carrots and or potatoes to cook along with the chicken. In my case, I included half a red onion, the chicken liver, heart and neck and the backbone itself—the first two which we ate and the second three adding flavor to the sauce. The very last few minutes I tossed in Brocollini which cooked in the sauce for just minutes. The key ingredient here is the herbed butter.
4 ounces of butter are brought to room temperature and then mashed with a selection of spices. Ms. Greenspan was kind enough to include some items more commonly found than the recipe’s Za’atar and Sumac which I embraced as I had neither in the house. The butter is then worked under the skin as extensively as possible. Starting at the neck, work your fingers down and along the breast on one side and then the other. Then starting at the other end of the bird, you push the butter over the thighs and drumsticks. Whatever is left over, is rubbed over the surface of the skin. In the oven, the butter bastes the bird in flavor. The garlic, onions and shallots under the chicken absorb the flavor of the chicken and thyme. And the sauce picks up all the flavors and is wonderful poured over them at serving time. Here is this wonderfully adaptable recipe which I served with mashed potatoes.
Spatchcocked Chicken adapt from Dorie Greenspan
The perfect roast chicken--crispy skinned and brown all over with wonderfully seasoned meat below the skin.
- 1 (3 to 4-pound) whole chicken
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp. Za’atar or dried oregano crumbled between your fingers after measuring
- ¾ tsp. ground cumim
- ¾ tsp. ground sumac or finely grated zest of one whole lemon
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- Fine Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- 1 small onion, sliced, rinsed and patted dry
- A few sprigs of fresh herbs—your choice—thyme, oregano, rosemary and/or parsley
- ¾ cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup white wine
- Crusty, country bread for serving (optional)
- Step 1 Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 425 degrees.
- Step 2 Remove any chicken parts left in the bird. Wash the bird and then dry it.
- Step 3 Next, spatchcock the bird. With a sharp pair of kitchen shears or a knife, cut out the backbone of the chicken by making parallel cuts along each side of the spine.
- Step 4 Use both hands to firmly press down to flatten the chicken.
- Step 5 Turn the chicken skin-side up, and use your fingers to gently separate the skin of the chicken from the breast and thigh meat to create pockets. Make sure you don’t tear any holes or detach the skin from the bird entirely.
- Step 6 Put the butter in a small bowl and add the za’atar or crumbled oregano, cumin, sumac or zest, coriander, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. of pepper. Mash the ingredients until they are completely blended with the butter.
- Step 7 Carefully work your fingers under the skin. Then work ¾ of the herbed butter between the skin and the meat. If it’s uneven, don’t worry. You can use your hands on the outside of the bird to distribute it evenly over the meat. Then use the remaining butter to cover the skin on the outside.
- Step 8 On top of a foil-lined rimmed sheet pan (9 x 13 is best), put the garlic, onion, shallots, herbs and chicken innards (optional) Then place the chicken atop over these ingredients. Pour the wine and chicken stock over the bird. Then put the sheet pan in the oven.
- Step 9 Roast the chicken for 45 to 60 minutes. The time will depend on your bird. But it should be crisp and beautifully browned and a Instant read thermometer poked into a thigh should read 165 degrees F.
- Step 10 Take the bird out of the oven and rest it before carving. Take the other ingredients and place them on a platter leaving the center open for the chicken. Pour the sauce from the sheetpan into a gravy boat. Cut the chicken into four pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs with drumsticks). It is best served soon after it comes out of the oven. Serve chicken passing the sauce on the side with plenty of bread to sop it up.