There are lots of good reasons to spatchcock a chicken, not least because, once flattened, it makes for an excellent shape to cook on your BBQ, though that is by no means compulsory. In this case the cooking was done entirely in my Aga, and the results were delectable. Try for yourself, though if using either a BBQ or a conventional oven it helps to get the temperature correct, since much of the cooking time was at a low temperature in the bottom oven. This ensures the chicken remains moist and succulent, ready for a final blast at full heat to crisp up the skin (see my advice on BBQ temperatures here.)
First things first: buy the very best quality chicken you can find, since it does make a huge difference to the end result. Free range is the very minimum, but the best answer is to cultivate a relationship with your local butcher and get him to recommend the highest quality chicken available locally. Failing that there are some excellent choices available direct from the farm and retailing online, such as this and this.
Essentially the process of spatchcocking (if there is such a verb, but if not you can always say “butterfly”) entails removing the backbone and sternum bone, then pushing it as flat as it will go. Use relatively small chickens and you can then slice down the middle to create a perfect serving of half a bird. Further guidelines on how to do this can be found here and here.
This is the method I adopted to season the chicken, giving a lovely Mediterranean flavour. You may have other ways to serve your bird, but you would not regret trying my version! Note that if you don’t have the herbs suggested, try one of the ready-made Mediterranean seasonings – though this is second best.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 smallish chicken, butterflied (see above)
- 1 lemon, zested
- Half a head of garlic (c6-8 cloves)
- Sea salt
- Fresh milled black pepper
- Crushed pink peppercorns
- Fresh or dried oregano
- Fresh or dried lemon thyme
- Fennel seeds
- Good fruity and/or peppery extra virgin olive oil
- White wine and a little chicken stock
Put the chicken in a hob-proof tin or dish big enough for it to sit comfortably. With a sharp knife, slash the thighs, drumsticks and breast. Sprinkle generously with salt and rub well into the slashes. Rub crushed garlic over the skin and stuff into the slashes. Grind pepper and sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns, lemon zest and herbs. Coat well in lemon juice and put a few slices of lemon on the chicken. Finally, add a good slug of olive oil.
Cook in a slow oven for 1-1.5 hours, keeping a close eye on the chicken to ensure it is cooked through without browning. Pour off the pan juices and skim off the oil from the top. This will make the jus (see below.)
For the roasted veg:
- Good variety of new potatoes, washed but skins on
- Variety of veg according to taste (eg. peppers, leek, mushrooms, onions, root veg, squash, garlic)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Olive oil, as above
- Salt & pepper, as above
Meanwhile, parboil the potatoes with skins on until nearly soft. Add a few spoonfuls of olive oil to a roasting tin and put in a hot oven. Dry the potatoes off and put in the pan, coating each with the oil. If using root veg, blanche and add to the pan at the same time. Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
Add the remaining veg to the other half of the tin, along with bay leaves, salt and pepper. Coat these in oil too. At the same time, add the chicken to the large tin and put in the oven to crisp up for a final 20-30 minutes, then take chicken to rest and cover with foil.
Take the pan the chicken was originally cooked in and put on a medium heat on the hob. Add a splash of wine and deglaze, stirring to scrape up the chickeny bits from the pan. Add the skimmed meat juices and chicken stock. Boil until reduced by more than half and consistency thickened still pourable.
Cut the chicken in half and plate up. Add potatoes and roast veg, plus a small and decorative puddle of jus. Serve immediately.