January 27, 2018 – Spatchcock. There’s no denying it’s a strange word. It’s a method of cooking a chicken that produces an amazingly delicious result. Still a strange word.
The word came into use in Ireland in the 18th century. Then, as now, it meant to remove the backbone of a chicken and flatten it. One theory has it that spatchcock is a combination of two words: dispatch, meaning to kill quickly, and cock, meaning a chicken. However, another theory suggests it comes from a 15th century word, spitchcock, which was a way of splitting and cooking eels.
Spatchcock chicken reached the height of its popularity in the mid 19th century. It had largely fallen out of favor by the mid 20th century. The 21st century, however, has seen a resurgence of the method.
Whatever the origin of the word there’s no debate that spatchcocking a chicken is a great way to cook a bird. By flattening the chicken the cooking time is lowered. Even better, more skin is exposed to heat resulting in a beautifully browned and crispy final product.
You can remove the backbone and flatten the chicken yourself. But it’s a lot easier to ask your local butcher to do it for you. I’m into easy these days.
As for seasoning, there are many recipes, most of which are very similar. I decided to use the “seasoning under the skin” approach. Done well, it makes for a juicier bird.
I use Creole mustard in my recipe because I prefer it. Most any dark, spicy mustard will work.
I also used a Meyer lemon. I’ve come to prefer them because they’re juicier. Other varieties of lemon will be fine.
For the last ten minutes in the oven, I placed broccoli rabe, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, around the chicken.
So here we go.
1 whole chicken, flattened with the backbone removed
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 Meyer lemon, cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 475.
Mix the butter and mustard thoroughly.
Gently slide your fingers under the skin covering the breast, thighs, and drumsticks to loosen it. Be careful not to tear the skin.
Spread the butter and mustard mixture under the loosened skin.
Place one lemon slice under the skin on each breast. Scatter the remaining lemon slices on a rack set over a jelly roll pan or something similar. Place the flattened chicken on the lemon slices.
Salt and pepper the bird to taste.
Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes. If the juices run clear when the meat is pierced, it’s done. Its internal temperature should be 165. Let the bird rest for five or ten minutes before carving it.