The Examiner: The Beauty of a Spatchcock Spring Chicken
To begin, place the chicken on a cutting board breast side down with the feet pointing away from you. Using kitchen shears, carefully insert the shears into the neck cavity to the right of the backbone and cut all the way down. Repeat on the left side of the backbone until the entire backbone is easily removed. Although you will have to cut through some bone, this step shouldn't be too difficult if you use sharp, clean kitchen shears. Leaving the chicken breast side down on the cutting board, use the butt of a sharp, sturdy chef's knife to crack the chest bone. Feel free to cut away some of the cartilage or leave it in place, whatever is easier.
Next, liberally season both the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. I love to add a bit of paprika to my salt and pepper mix to add an extra layer of smoky flavor.
If the chicken is small enough, I like to sear the bird, breast side down in a hot cast iron skillet before roasting it. This jumpstarts the browning process and gives the skin a beautiful golden color and crispy texture, that only gets better the longer it roasts in the oven.
Next, carefully flip over the bird so it's resting breast side up in the skillet and transfer to a preheated 400 degree oven. The beauty of a spatchcocked chicken is that it will cook thoroughly and evenly in less time than if it were kept whole. By flattening out the chicken against the pan, more surface area is exposed to heat which allows more of the skin to get crispy and brown (not just the breasts). A cast iron skillet is the perfect cooking medium for a roast chicken, because the pan drippings create a full and complex sauce with little to no effort. Every 10-15 minutes remove from the oven and baste with the pan juices and a squeeze of lemon juice.
After about 30-45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees, the chicken is done. Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for about ten minutes before carving. This is crucial to allow the juices to lock into the meat, so they don't run out the minute you start slicing.
For this recipe I topped my roast chicken with an herb chimichurri, made from chopped parsley, tarragon, roasted garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Find the recipe below and enjoy!
For the Chicken
1 Whole Chicken
1 Tbsp Butter
Salt, pepper and paprika as needed
4 Cloves of garlic, roasted
1/4 cup of parsley leaves, packed
2 Tbsps Tarragon leaves, packed
3 Tbsps of Olive Oil
1 Splash of champagne vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
Step 1: Finely chop all the herbs and roasted garlic cloves and mix together with the lemon zest and vinegar in either a blender, a food processor or (for a more rustic sauce) in a bowl with a whisk. Slowly add in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream.
Step 2: Using the above instructions, carefully remove the backbone of the chicken, break the breastbone and liberally season the bird on the inside and outside.
Step 3: Sear the bird breast side down in an oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat, until golden brown. Flip over the chicken and lay it in the pan breast side up, flattening down the bird as evenly as possible. Transfer to a preheated 400 degree oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes. Remove the pan every 10-15 minutes and baste the meat with the pan drippings and a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook until a meat thermometer registers at least 165 degrees when placed in the thigh and thickest part of the breast.
Step 4: Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for about ten minutes, then slather in chimichurri and serve