Monday, June 7, 2010

Spatchcock (I Swear It's Clean)

Spatchcock (noun): describes a chicken (or other game bird) that has been prepared for roasting/grilling by the removal of its backbone. Can also be a verb (e.g., "I spatchcocked the crap out of that chicken last night"). Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago to celebrate the arrival of our friend Clyde, who is spending the summer with us in Wheaton.

The issue with roasting a chicken is that the thigh meat is perfectly cooked at 170°, while the breast meat is perfectly cooked at 150° (any higher will dry it out and no one likes dry breast meat). Conundrum. The idea of spatchcocking is so that the chicken lays flat against the roasting pan, pushing the breasts together to make them thicker. This will keep the breasts from cooking too quickly. Now, spatchcocking a chicken isn't for the faint-hearted of cooks. If you're not used to mangling a chicken carcass, you may want to ease into it. I didn't bother "easing;" instead, I grabbed a pair of kitchen shears and tore through the chicken's ribs, thus removing its entire backbone. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Once spatchcocked, I roasted to make Chipotle Chicken Tacos and served with red rice. For the zesty recipes, read on!

Chipotle Roast Chicken Tacos
Adapted from YumSugar

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 tsp minced chipotles in adobo plus sauce
1/2 tsp coriander
1 5 1/2 - 6 lb roasting chicken (mine was only 3.5 lbs but still good!)
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
warm corn tortillas, sliced avocado, and tomatoes for serving

Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl (can be done 1 day ahead, just refrigerate until ready to use).

Preheat oven to 400°. Spatchcock the chicken by placing breast-side down and cutting through the ribs to remove the entire backbone. Place breast-side up in a roasting pan. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the meat as much as possible, then rub the herb butter mix onto the chicken under the skin. Try to cover as much surface area as you can. I had some extra mix (because I halved the recipe except for the rub) so I covered the outside of the skin as well then sprinkled with chipotle chile powder, salt and pepper.

Arrange the onion wedges and smashed garlic around the chicken. I put some underneath it too since this preparation method eliminates a functional cavity for herbs and stuff. Pour broth and wine into the roasting pan. Roast the chicken for about 25-30 minutes, until thigh meat registers at 170° and breast meat (hopefully) only at 150°. Mine didn't work out quite that nicely, but the breast meat was still pretty juicy.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Letting your meat rest is very important! It allows all the yummy juices to settle back into the cooked meat. If you cut too early, all the juices will spill out leaving you with dry, boring results.

Remove chicken from the bone and cut into small chunks or shred*. Serve with warmed tortillas and any other taco fixins' you want (we went with tomatos, avocados, shredded cheddar, and a cool avocado dressing).

Red Rice

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small white onion, minced
1 garlic cloved, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup long-grain white rice (I used jazmati)
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

Sauté the onions and garlic in the oil in a medium saucepan for a few minutes, until onions start to brown on the edges. Add tomato paste and rice; stir to combine and sauté for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes; fluff with a fork before serving.

*Don't forget to make a killer stock with the carcass!