Splayed Roast Chicken (adapted from Melissa Clark)

2 Mar

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?

Cutting the skin to release the legs (photo by Leandro de Cuba)

Cutting the skin to release the legs (photo by Leandro de Cuba)

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.

Into the skillet. Raw whole chicken always looks vaguely sordid to me. I popped this one right into the oven before it got to me...

Into the skillet. Raw whole chicken always looks vaguely sordid to me. I popped this one right into the oven before it got to me…

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.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

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!

Proper lunch

Proper lunch

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.

Roasted potatoes

Roasted potatoes

The child — who already eats like a growing linebacker — ate both breasts on his own!

just garlic and oil, and finished with sea salt

just garlic and oil, and finished with sea salt

“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.

Moist and tender all around

Moist and tender all around

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.

You may also like:

Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas

Lemon and Rosemary Roasted Chicken (hot or cold)

Tandoori Style Roasted Chicken (hot or cold)

Spring Roast: Chicken with Vegetables in Rosemary & Mustard Sauce

Pretty plate!

Pretty plate!


5 Responses to “Splayed Roast Chicken (adapted from Melissa Clark)”

  1. Karen March 3, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    I can just imagine the smoke and I think the chicken would smoke in my oven as well. It has to be all the fat in the chicken sizzling in the cast iron skillet. But best chicken ever might make me give it a try on a day when I could keep the windows open. 🙂

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy March 3, 2014 at 10:30 am #

      My dad’s in Puerto Rico right now and that is exactly what he said. Of course, he can keep the windows open ALL the time….

  2. Mad Dog March 3, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    That looks delicious – fantastic potatoes too 😉

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy March 3, 2014 at 7:18 am #

      If only I could get the little guy to eat potatoes…he’s not even as into French fries (chips) as you might think….

      • Mad Dog March 3, 2014 at 7:36 am #

        Amazing! I suspect it will come with time 🙂

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