Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to Make Perfect Roast Chicken

   I feel like an ad from the 1950s..."She used to do it the wrong way, and then she discovered..." Pause while I put on my pinny.
   Once upon a time, I used to roast chickens whole. The results were alright, I suppose, but sometimes the breast meat was dryer than the thighs, and then there was all the bother of carving them and asking who wanted white meat and who liked a leg. I'm not sure when I made the switch but lately, I've been butterflying my birds, which means that they cook faster, and the results are considerably, impressively juicier. Another term for this is "spatchcocking," a word that evidently originated in Ireland.
   A very sharp knife would probably do the job but it's considerably easier if you use purpose-built poultry shears. Mine came from Ikea several years ago, and I use them for nothing else. Vegetarians, look away. This is going to be graphic. If you want it to be even more graphic, go to YouTube and watch the video.
    To do the deed, insert the poultry shears up the chicken's rear end and cut through, beside the backbone, right the way through to where the neck would be if it hadn't been chopped off. Then do the same the other side of the backbone. Now, with the chicken's skin side up,  take a heavy knife, and cut down the middle of the breastbone, part-way through, stem to stern. Finally, with a firm hand, flatten the chicken.
     The following is based on using a chicken weighing around 1.2 kg (a little over 2-1/2 pounds). Heavier chicken=longer cooking time. Obviously.
     Put your spatchcocked bird into a pan just large enough to accommodate it. Salt and pepper the bird,  and maybe smear its skin with olive oil. Don't go overboard with the oil. Usually, I also throw in some garlic cloves (peeled or unpeeled), and maybe squeeze a halved lemon over it. Then I whack it into an oven preheated to 175°C. Give it a glance after 30 or 40 minutes and, if it looks a little dry, spoon some of the pan juices over it. After one hour, it should be done, the skin golden-brown, taut and crispy, the meat cooked through. A knife stuck into the bird where the leg joins the body should slide cleanly through. If you're not sure, crank the heat up by 10 degrees and give it ten minutes more.
      Decant your lovely, gilded roast chicken on to a platter and cover it with a tea towel if, as we did this morning, you're off to a vide grenier, and want chicken for lunch.  Do not use plastic wrap. A hot chicken gives off steam and any condensation falls back on its skin and makes it soggy. We don't want that, do we. 
     You can eat it hot of course but, either way, this is simple, rustic food so don't faff around with fancy decorative touches. Just cut the chicken in four (another reason to buy poultry shears), and adorn it with parsley and a quartered lemon.
      Now, digest that while I get on to the next post, wherein I'll tell you some easy dishes to serve with the chicken.

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