Friday, April 29, 2011

Spanish Butterfly

When a whole bird’s backbone is removed so that it can lay flat for grilling or roasting it looks butterflied.  The term is actually spatchcocked and no amount of research provides a particularly interesting word derivation.  What is interesting is that the bird cooks faster, is easier for most to carve and makes a really pleasing presentation.

For a recent dinner we enjoyed a Spanish-influenced spatchcocked chicken.  Any of your favorite chicken seasonings are just as good and you can even place the bird on a bed of bread stuffing for a more formal dinner.  I baste the chicken halfway through with the cooking juices then make a light gravy while the bird rests.  You can also toss quartered vegetables like potatoes, onion and carrots or fennel into the pan once the juices begin to collect.

The method is easiest if you use kitchen sheers.  (A sharp boning or chefs knife will also do the job.) 

Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken
1 whole chicken  3-5 pounds
1/2 lemon, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper, smoked Spanish paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.  While the oven preheats, prepare the chicken for roasting.  
  2. Turn the bird on its breast and, working from the cavity end,  cut down each side of the back bone.  Open up the bird so that the inner breastbone is exposed.  
  3. If the bird is over 4 pounds, consider removing the sternum to allow the breast to lay completely flat.  Simply cut a sliver into each side of the bone and remove it and attached cartiledge.   (A smaller, younger chicken will have a more flexible sternum and may not need removal.  This is optional even for a larger bird.)  
  4. Squeeze a lemon quarter on each side of the bird followed by the olive oil.  Finally rub with the salt, pepper and paprika.  Place chicken directly on a large rimmed roasting pan.  (A flat rack is optional.)  
  5. Roast chicken 15-20 minutes per pound until the internal temperature reaches 165˚F.   (A four-pound chicken can take under an hour so keep an eye on it.)  Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to rest 10-15 minutes before carving or cutting into parts.  During this time the temperature will increase to 170˚F and juices will be reabsorbed to provide a moist yet thoroughly cooked chicken.
Serve the Spanish chicken with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon wedges to squeeze over the meat.

Tomorrow: The remains of a whole bird give you the fixings for soup.  You can even roast the backbone alongside the bird for extra deep flavor.