Monday, October 05, 2009

Magazine Monday # 52: Spatchcocked Chicken

The universe works in mysterious ways. I get my June issue of Canadian Living Magazine in the mail and it contains a feature on spatchcocked chicken. I get curious because, let's face it, the name is catchy. The page gets bookmarked but I'm too cheap to pay $2.29/lb (SALE price) at LOGS for a whole chicken, and I beg a family member - dear old Dad - for a trip to the States so I can refill my rapidly emptying pantry & meat collection with decently-priced US stuff. We make a date to go, and while this is going on and my anticipation of the shopping spree gets higher and higher, two foodbloggers I discover within days of each other feature posts on spatchcocked chicken (the first was Katherine Aucoin of Smoky Mountain Kitchen and her recipe is here; the other is Chris of Nibble Me This, and his recipe is here). Also, as the shopping date draws nearer, I get a cookbook to review in which there is also a recipe for spatchcocked chicken. These all add up to one thing: the universe is insisting I spatchcock a chicken!

So, on the big day, I get a whole chicken for $0.98/lb in the States a mind-boggling, ridiculously low price in my world, and on Saturday night, I got out my shears and my June 2009 issue of Canadian Living and spatchcocked away!

The Canadian Living definition of "spatchcocking" is this: "spatchcock, v., to split and flatten small poultry by removing the backbone and pressing on the breastbone."

The advantages, according the the article, are:

  • Opening the bird decreases cooking time, which keeps the meat moist.
  • Because of even exposure to heat, the thighs, legs, and breast cook more evenly than when cooking a whole bird

It also adds, "When grilling a spatchcocked bird, grill over indirect heat to prevent skin from burning."

Well, there was snow on them thar hills on Saturday, so I wasn't grilling anything outside.

Here are the instructions provided in the article:
  1. Using sharp scissors, cut bird down each side of backbone and remove bone
  2. Turn breast side up; press firmly on breastbone to flatten
  3. Tuck wings behind back. If desired, insert criss-crossed metal or wooden skewers to keep bird flat
  4. Grill or roast as desired

Well, surely this would be easy enough, right? Right? Well, no.

First of all, I'm not an expert on chicken anatomy, or any anatomy, and I had a hard time ascertaining which side of the chicken the backbone was located on. This was made more difficult than usual because the bird was so big and plump - not small and scrawny like the ones I'm used to getting up here at LOGS. It was really hard to tell the breast from the back - it was that meaty. I am not kidding. Eventually I figured it out - the neck gave it away. The neck, I know from looking at my own body, is attached to the back, not the front. Right? Right.

So, onto the spatchcocking. Now that I'd found the backbone, I had to cut it out. With my shears. It seemed simple enough - until I began cutting. The monstrous crunching of bone that resounded through my kitchen and the crunching I felt in my hand via the shears nearly killed me. I had to stop and settle myself down, I was so upset by the sound of the crunching in my ears. This was the most revolting thing I think I have ever done in the kitchen. I couldn't leave the chicken half spatchcocked, though; I had to persevere. Despite the fact that my stomach was turning and I felt like throwing up, I continued to cut away, through bone, making that horrible sound.
To me, there is nothing more disturbing than hearing bones break and snap - human, animal, dead animal - it's just gross and sickening.

And of course it didn't end there! No! I had to flip the chicken over and press down on the breastbone - breaking more bones and making more crunching noises as more bones snapped under my bare hands. It was pure torture.
I needed to rest after this - and I made up my mind as I rested that I would never spatchcock another chicken. What's the point? It almost put me off the chicken altogether and that's just counterproductive. A roasted chicken with body still relatively intact is just fine and dandy in my books. Crap on a cracker!

Anyway, I eventually made a paste out of these three ingredients...
...The Old Bay Seasoning I got in the USA, too, since I've never seen it up here. My good friend Pierce of Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor highly recommended OBS after she gave it rave reviews in a post she did after she was given a gift bag from the company itself. This stuff smelled heavenly, and it was fantastic on the chicken. Sorry for the crappy picture - I dug in before remembering to photograph!
I served the chicken with roasted potatoes, green beans, and some patty-pan squash from my garden (more on that in a future post).

Sometimes you have to do things just to learn you should avoid them. That is the moral of my spatchcocking tale.


Borderline Lil said...

Yikes! This sounds brutal, looks delicious though. Did you find the chicken cooked quicker/better this way? I don't think there's anything wrong with a nice long gentle roast, even though the chicken is still dead meat (ahem), at least there's no snapping of necks, etc, involved. Another great post!

Palidor said...

Oh you poor thing! I'm sorry that you were upset by the process. I never thought about it that way before... But great job for persevering! The chicken looks great with the rub you put on.

A Year on the Grill said...

I LOVED this post. I have only done one chicken like this in my life, and I am with you... It was an interesting experience, but that poor bird suffered enough just to get to the store... Now I am asked to torture the cadaver.

Thanks for the honest post, gave me a chuckle...

BUT, the finished product looks great

Cathy said...

By far my favourite way to do a chicken! And love the name ;)

Anonymous said...

After seeing it being done on t.v several times ( by Ina Garten in particular), I was actually contemplating spatchcocking a chicken ... but I too am squeamish when it comes to chopping bones etc... THANKS so much for the warning. I think I will save my self the difficulty/ struggle... so your gruelling effort was not in vain. Either way,... the finished product looks delish !

Wandering Coyote said...

Lil: Good question. It may have saved me 15 - 20 minutes in cooking time overall. So, not really worth it, IMO.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

You did a great job spatchcoking - I haven't tried it yet.
The fact that we pay double or more than the States for the same goods just kills me.

Shelly W said...

Your chicken looks delicious! I'm with you on the cutting up part. I was pretty close to tossing the ole cookies when cutting up the chickens I made recently. Old Bay is some good stuff. I use it on lots of things. It tastes good on french fries. Yeah, I'm weird :)

shihtzustaff said...

Good thing you don't live at our house. Crunching bones is a common sound as the dogs all eat raw!

Elra said...

Great step by step photos. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Chris said...

You had me cracking up. If you lived next door, I'd do it for you so you wouldn't have too.

I guess you don't want to see my posts of how to trim chicken wings or how to remove a membrane from a baby back rib then ;)

I love Old Bay seasoning and it works good on birds but I've never seen the variety you have there. I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

Chris said...

Oh yeah, I forgot this quote I once read in a forum:

"I told my father in law that I was going to spatchcock a chicken. He replied, so what? I just bitchslapped a sirloin!"

Pierce said...

Wow...that must have been gross to hear the bones snapping. I'm glad you aren't oput off chicken because you roast a mean chicken and I love your recipes.

Have you ever tried beer can chicken? That keep the bird moist and it's indirect heat. We haven't done that in awhile.

Can't believe what you are being charged for chicken in Canada. That is robbery!

Donna-FFW said...

I felt your pain while going through this, I think itmay have turned me off as well. Nicely done end product though. Looks delicious.

Chris's comment is funny, bitchslappin a sirloin..

Bob said...

Well, it looks awesome. I love me some roasted chicken. I've been wanting to spatchcock a chicken for months now, but haven't gotten around to it. Heh, fortunately bones breaking don't bother me.

girlichef said...

Oh my gosh...somehow I missed this post...but (and I'm sorry) I'm glad I went back because your misery gave me a good chuckle. LOL...I actually enjoy getting in there and disecting a little meat and bone... end result looks delish!

Holly said...

Sorry to hear that you disliked the process, I would not bother with a chicken myself, but for a turkey..totally awesome! 1 hour to cook 12 lbs! I borrowed one of your photos for my blog to illustrate the process, but I did give you full credit and two links back to your page. Thanks for photographing the whole thing!


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