I had a craving for a roast chicken and Stop & Shop had a sale on whole organic birds and it was a rare lazy Saturday with almost nothing on the schedule…so the stars aligned and I got to planning a proper weekend lunch for me and my boy. I have several terrific roast chicken recipes (see links below), but wanted to try something new and I seemed to remember that the New York Times’ Melissa Clark was roasting birds in a new way.
I really enjoy Ms. Clark’s recipes and short videos. Her techniques tend to be very simple and unfussy and I have gotten many good ideas from her work. I would like to do something similar for Latin and Puerto Rican cooking…who’s in?
A quick Google search got me to her video on splayed chicken and I was inspired! PLEASE NOTE: I had a big issue with my oven smoking, but the end result was so amazing that me and the boy agreed it was worth doing again, even though I had to shut him in the bathroom with the fan on and the window open and my eyes streaming and opening more windows to the frigid temperatures outside.
Mind you, I rarely use my tiny apartment stove because it sucks — uneven cooking, imprecise temperature settings, no indication of when you’ve reached the temperature that you want, just awful – and I head down to use my parents’ whenever I want to roast or bake or broil anything that doesn’t fit in my fancy toaster oven.
So it may very well have been a function of unmentionable stuff burning toxic something that I don’t really want to think about, but I had to lower the heat a bit towards the end which helped somewhat and the child kept himself busy in the bathroom until the air had cleared out the windows. I don’t know why the smoke alarm didn’t go off, which is also worrying…I will be writing to Ms. Clark to ask her if this has ever happened to her and will keep you posted on her response.
In the meantime, I think you will LOVE how this splaying technique and the preheated skillet combine to get a bird that is perfectly, evenly cooked – breast and thighs — at exactly the same time. We’ve all roasted birds where the breasts were perfect and the legs underdone, or the breast dry and woody and the legs perfect. Well this eliminates that problem. Amazing!
For the original recipe (with ramps and capers) and video click here. I changed the seasonings to suit what I had on hand and then roasted broccoli and new purple potatoes in the toaster oven (20 minutes at 350º) with smashed garlic and a generous glug-glug of olive oil and that was it.
The child — who already eats like a growing linebacker — ate both breasts on his own!
“This is the best chicken ever. Ever. I don’t care about the smoke. We have to make it again!” he said. Yeah. It was that good.
Splayed Roast Chicken With Caramelized Onions and Garlic
1 3 1/2-pound whole chicken, patted dry
1.5 teaspoons kosher/coarse salt (I used Maldon Flakes)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs each: rosemary, thyme, sage
1 lemon, quartered
1 tablespoon or more extra virgin olive oil
Adobo powder, if desired
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
Rub the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Try to separate the skin from the breast by gently inserting your fingers and get some salt in there. If you’ve got time, do this 2 to 3 hours ahead and refrigerate the bird uncovered. Otherwise, let it rest uncovered at room temperature while the oven heats.
Place a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet in the oven and heat to 500 degrees for 45 minutes. If you salted the chicken in advance, take it out of the fridge to bring it to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prep the onions and garlic.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut the skin connecting the legs to the body. Splay the thighs open and pop out each thigh joint. Place the lemon wedges and herbs inside the chicken.
Take out the skillet and put it on a heat-resistant surface. Carefully transfer chicken, breast-side up, to the hot skillet. Press down on the legs so they lay flat on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the bird with the oil and optional Adobo. Roast for 30 minutes. At this point I had the smoking problem I told you about and lowered to 400°F which reduced the problem somewhat. Toss onion and garlic into the skillet. Stir to coat them with pan juices. Roast for 5 minutes more, then stir again. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are tender and chicken is no longer pink, 5 to 15 minutes more (for a total cooking time of 40 to 55 minutes).
Remove chicken from oven and let chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the pan juices and onions and garlic, seasoning everything with juice from the remaining lemon wedges, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings.
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