(Bangs wooden spoon for order) All right, settle down, this is serious business. Hey giggling. Enough.

Right. So. Spatchcocking.


Sorry. This both looks more difficult and more obscene than it actually is. Actually, no, I take part of that back, something about this whole process is definitely sort of obscene. But the results are obscenely good, especially if you are, like me, a fan of roast chicken skin.

So, spatchcocking (knock it off!) is simply removing the backbone from the chicken and flattening it out onto your baking sheet and roasting it thusly. Basically it's one step short of dismantling the whole chicken. I've seen it in magazine articles quite a few times, and Lucinda Scala Quinn features it in the January issue of Martha Stewart Living, roasted with lemons and shallots.  I always trust Lucinda so I decided to give her recipe a try, and with two chickens so I would have a good foundation for the week ahead of going back to school.

Lucinda Scala Quinn's Roast Spatchcocked Lemon Chicken

  • 1 whole 4-pound chicken (or two smaller ones and if doing two, double everything else below)
  • 2 tbsps plus 1 tsp olive oil (like I measure)
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 small shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 bulb garlic separated into cloves
  • Sprigs of thyme, oregano and rosemary

Preheat oven to 425. Brush 1 tablespoon oil on a baking sheet and place half the lemon slices and half the garlic cloves in single layer on top of oil, then scatter the herbs on top. Note: the cloves do not have to be peeled.

Place chicken, breast side down, on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Courage. Turn the chicken around, cut along other side of backbone. Set backbone aside (more on this later). Flip chicken and open it like a book, pressing down firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand.

Place chicken, skin side up, on top of lemons. Rub skin with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. With your fingers or spatula, carefully loosen and separate the skin off the breast, and slide the remaining lemon slices underneath against the meat. You could slide some butter in there too. Why not.

Roast chicken 20 minutes. Toss shallots and remaining (peeled or not) cloves of garlic with 1 tsp oil. After 20 minutes, scatter shallots and garlic around chicken. Roast another 25-30 minutes until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast reaches 165.

Transfer chicken to carving board, let rest 10 minutes. Serve with the pan juices, roasted lemons, shallots, and garlic cloves (squeeze them out of the skins if you left them unpeeled).  Now just take a minute and look at that skin.  Look at it!  Are you looking?  That is chicken skin!

Now, remember the backbones? Watch. Are you watching? Good. Throw them into your soup pot. Add 2 quarts water and turn the heat on medium-high. Peel 3 or 4 carrots, chop them any old how, throw them in. Add 3 or 4 ribs of celery. Throw in a couple onions, quartered. Leave the skins on because they will give the stock color, in fact if they are the last onions in the bag, shake all those loose skins in there. Got old garlic, those little center cloves that are so hard to peel so you chuck them back in the bin? Throw those in, don't peel them. Whatever sad vegetables there are in the bin, just throw them into the pot. Be sloppy. Add salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down low and forget about it for a few hours. Strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, and discard all the solids. You are left with liquid gold, and tomorrow you can simmer it up with carrots, celery, barley, shred leftover chicken into it, and before digging in, drop in a slice or two of roasted lemon and one of those big, fat roasted garlic cloves.

You rock.

You spatchcock.

It to me, sock.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Roast Chicken

There is nothing like roast chicken. It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper; it will not let you down.
— "Roast Chicken", from More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin

Tonight I roasted a chicken and served it with sauteed sweet potatoes and edamame. I roast a chicken nearly every week. If I am particularly flush, I will roast two chickens and have the second to eat cold for lunches. Truthfully, I like cold roast chicken better than hot, and even more truthfully, I like cold roast chicken for breakfast better than lunch.

Enough confessions, darling, or else we shall fall madly in love and ruin everything.

I always struggled with time and temperature when it came to roasting, until Ms. Colwin showed me the way: 325 for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I tried it once and have never looked back. Perfect roast chicken every time.

As for prep, I don't do anything fancy. Wash the bird in cold water and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Moisture creates steam and ideally you want dry heat rather than steam, although it won't ruin your dinner.

Remove the bag of giblets whatever you think you should do with it.  And speaking of which, here is an old Sprint PCS commercial that I LOVE. Even though the woman in the spot is regarding a Thanksgiving turkey, her delivery is spot-on.

You want me to put my hand in the what?

You want me to put my hand in the what?

Put your bird breast-up on the roasting rack in the roasting pan. Stuff the bird with a halved lemon, a thousand cloves of garlic (or less), and some sprigs of sage, rosemary, thyme, Simon or Garfunkle. Drizzle olive oil over the bird, rub into the skin, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.

Roast at 325 for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When the leg bone wiggles in the joint and the thigh meat registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer, it is done. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the juices settle. Carve and serve.

Carve. Hah. I cannot carve a chicken to save my life. Really. It's embarrassing. I usually fob the job off on a willing guest, or use kitchen shears, or tear the bird apart with my hands in private while unapologetically eating the roast chicken skin and the tail and the wingtips—with the privilege that comes from being the chef.

Roast Chicken.jpg

I also have a gravy problem but I'm in a support group. I'm doing OK. One lump at a time.

Now here's a little story about roast chicken. My mother, being the groovy foodie she is, gave me one of those baking dishes with the central cone so you can roast your chicken vertically, ensuring evenly crisp and beautiful skin. As per manufacturer's recommendation, the cone is filled up with ale and the chicken is sprinkled with salt and pepper.  

I was having company for dinner one night, so I roasted one chicken vertically, and had a second chicken roasted in the traditional way. Just so we could all make a comparison.

The consensus seemed to be that both chickens were equally delicious. The vertical roasted method did not produce evenly crisp and browned skin, rather the neck and shoulders were beautiful and from the waist down it was...not. Furthermore, the ale in the cone didn't seem to bring anything to the table.

My mom later tried roasting just a turkey breast in the vertical roaster and said it was a howling success. I trust her on these things. Furthermore, roasting just the turkey breast skirts the whole issue of, "You want me to put my hand in the what?!"