You might already be thinking I've lost it...
But yes I do actually realize that there is nothing sexy about that lonely naked chicken in the corner...
Better with the red?
No, not really.
How about a new position?
Okay okay sorry, I think I am am feeling a slight lingering Rosé Cava haze, which apparently entails the unfortunate side effect of bad jokes... and there is also something wrong with me
ie: on the left is what we just left, in exchange for the glory on the right, which lies just outside the door... Clearly I am sick.
But my enthusiasm for this particular chicken is not a part of my winter delusion disorder.
"Sexy" may sound like a bit of a stretch as a yard bird branding... last night as I awkwardly held the phone to my left ear with my right hand, gripping an ice pack with burned fingertips and rattling off a waterfall of expletives regarding my dinner, my sister, giggling, asked "what exactly is it about this chicken that qualifies it as 'sexy'?" ...I am trying to remember why I have been referring to this dish as such for the past couple of months because, let's get real; a lonely naked bird doesn't have a chance in hell.
Wait a minute...
How about an un-lonely, un-naked, un-dead chicken documented with a foxy-as-hell farmer!... that's better isn't it!?
But the chicken we are talking about is dead, not dead-sexy. Oh dear sorry, sorry, I need to stop. I am just going to tell you how to cook this bird so you can continue your Valentine's week with another voluptuous and seductive dinner. And I am going to be serious and just get to the point.
Spatchcocking. Have you heard of this? Well, the French do it differently than the technique described in the Gourmet cookbook, where I found the inspiration for this recipe, which is apparently different from the Australian version which is apparently different from the English... (why can't we all get along)... I was confused so I checked the Le Cordon Bleu Cook's Bible for the illustrated rendition of le spatchcock. It sounds like a weird American bastardization so I didn't think I'd find anything, but alas, there it was, on page 92... but they used needles and stuff... and sewing flesh was not on my must-do list yesterday. All of the photos I could find online featured a simple flattened bird... so I did my best to follow along with the text in the Best of Gourmet 2007 cookbook...
Warning: these photos highlight the extreme un-sexiness of naked, lonely, dead chickens.
Clearly Gusgus disagrees with our sentiment on the allure factor of this creature.
Step 1: Take strong scissors (kitchen shears) and holding onto the tail of the chicken, cut along the backbone all the way through on both sides. (Our chickens still have necks because, back on kill day, we were too busy with the Rolling Rocks to make a unified neck pile location decision if you recall...)
Anyway, the "backAndNeck," as the West Indian ladies call it, makes for a damn fine soup stock so make sure you save it.
(I keep le Bone Bag in the freezer and add miscellaneous bones until I am in desperate need of stock and then empty it into my cauldron with all the chicken feet and a little abracadabra.)
Just kidding about the feet... actually, I don't know what happened to those feet... there were 100, enough to overflow a five-gallon bucket... which we thought was absurdly funny...
Is that morbid and weird?
I did have a couple of chef friends that said they would've liked to make foot stock had they known about the surplus up here. Anyone want to claim the 2012 bucket of feet? Let me know! They also make nice Christmas ornaments; my (vegetarian) sister-in-law made some killer duck foot ornaments that we proudly display each year. I am serious. Okay, okay I am sorry, enough, lets get back to the sexy part of this chicken.
Step 2: After the backbone is removed, pat the bird as dry as possible with paper towel and place it skin-side up as in the above photo. Press down quite fiercely in the middle as shown above, breaking the breast bone and allowing the chicken to lie flat.
At this point it feels all wonky and wobbly. And things just get weirder.
Step 3: Find the center point between the thigh and breast and make a small incision, as shown above. Then, tuck the knobbly part of the drumstick through it (see right side of photo and try not to make such a big tear)
Step 4: Make small incisions on the sides of the breasts as shown above, and tuck the wings in as well.
Voila' –– a (sort of) neat little flat(ish) package. If that isn't sultry I don't know what is.
Haha, no no, I do realize that that chicken looks weird and playing with dead chicken is also nothing short of weird.
BUT you just wait until you cook this thing up and then get back to me. The finished product is irresistable and you too will find yourself risking burned finger tips to crack into the crisp, perfectly browned skin... the silhouetted sage leaves luring you in... and then, I predict, you will burn your tongue and you won't care because it is so delicious. And then you will realize you haven't even taken it out of the pan to finish the sauce...
The sauce is sublime and ridiculous and mellifluous and beyond noteworthy. It will put you into a frenzy and you won't care that it is dripping down your arms and when your dinner is ready you will be gleefully picking up your drumsticks and dipping them into the extra, wishing that the sauce supply would never end. Then, it will, because you won't be able to stop guzzling it and you will want to do the whole thing again asap. I actually think you will agree that the deliciousness of this very chicken recipe is worth raising your own organic backyard birds.
In fact, I think that this recipe is the only thing that I have cooked more-or-less exactly the same way more than twice in as long as I can remember... (did I mention I like to try new things? and that I only measure for the sake of being able to report recipes to y'all?)
My point is, that there is much more here than meets the eye. Of course the quality of the chicken matters, a lot. My flamboyant claims above are based on an organic pastured chicken who spent their nine weeks of life at Bliss Ridge... Don't buy supermarket chicken and don't buy non-organic chicken feed... and don't get me started on GMOs... because I don't have time to rant all day right now because I have to give you this recipe so I can go eat leftover valentine chocolate-chile mousse with a mountain of fresh whipped cream.
Rather nonchalant cast of characters:
Generous handful of fresh sage, 1 tbsp whole pink peppercorns, 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, kosher salt, black pepper, 1 bad-ass chicken (I used a 6.5lb one for this recipe)
1/2 cup of good apple cider vinegar, a half-gallon of bootlegged black vodka
1.5 cups Homemade chicken stock
Fresh or dried Rosemary
7 tbsp butter (I used homemade raw, organic salted butter)
Just kidding about the boot-legged vod, its just really dark (grade C) maple syrup from last Spring's harvest; use 1/2 cup of the darkest and most flavorful you can find!
The Sexiest Chicken Ever. (inspired and based on Gourmet's "Chicken with black pepper maple sauce")
1) See above for graphic spatchcocking instructions.
2) Salt and pepper the bird generously on both sides, taking care not to de-contortion the package as your flip it over.
3) Slip fresh sage leaves under the skin liberally.
3) Heat 5 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is all the way melted and hot but not smoking, place your chicken, breast-side down, into the butter. Sprinkle with fresh (or dried and crumbled) rosemary.
4) Place a piece of parchment paper over the chicken and then get something really heavy (I used a cast iron skillet containing two bricks, with the cover of the le Creuset on top of it all):
5) Cook until chicken is perfectly browned, about 20 minutes (watch to make sure your flame is low enough so it doesn't blacken but high enough so it makes a perfect crust.)
6) Meanwhile, get your sauce on: toast the whole peppercorns in a dry saucepan over medium heat, for a few minutes until fragrant, then coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a heavy spoon or pan. Put them back in the saucepan with the 1/2 cup of maple syrup, 1 cup of chicken stock, a teaspoon or so rosemary; bring to a simmer then reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 mins.
7) Flip the bird: remove all the weights, then the parchment paper, turn the chicken over, replace the parchment and weights on the other side and cook for another 30 mins, at which point your should check to see if it is done cooking (I just stab a knife into the breast and check if the juices run clear. If your meat thermometer didn't break last year then you could alternatively use that). This 6.5 lb-er needed a total of 55 minutes. When it is done, move it to a platter and resist the temptation to strip the bird of all the crispy skin immediately, but under no circumstances should you forgo tasting it straight away.
8) Pour the 1/2 cup cider vinegar into the hot chicken pan and deglaze it over medium-high heat, scraping up all of the bits and stirring constantly until the mixture is reduced by half. Then add the additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock, as well as the maple mix to this pan and boil until the sauce thickens, about 3 mins. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in 2 more tablespoons of butter. Turn off the heat and taste taste taste. Add salt if you think it needs some. Mine didn't need anything; it was so good I wanted to drink it. You can either strain it to remove all of the bits and have a smooth velvety sauce, or leave the bits in. Yesterday I went with silky and my woodsman asked nonchalantly about the missing bits. Of course I had predicted this as he always likes bits. So I added them back in.
I just threw the thigh atop some simple chickpea and roasted delicata salad with goat feta, smoked paprika, red onion and lemon. and PEA SHOOTS. Oh how I love those springy little units... which brings me to the conclusion for today because I need to go water my pea shoot garden. I will tell you all about it soon.
Please cook this chicken asap. I am serious. Even if you don't yet believe my lofty claims. It will beguile you.
And let me know what you think. Is it worthy of its title?
Do you like your sauce velvety or with bits?