It is obvious, roast chicken is one of my favorite foods. To me it is pure comfort food at its best. The perfect roast chicken has tender and juicy meat with rich flavors that only roasting can bring. Unfortunately, when my children were young, having roast chicken for dinner was an event because it took so long to make. I wish I knew then what I know now. Those oven-stuffer birds of the 90’s would roast in half the time if I removed the backbone. This technique is also known as, spatchcock chicken. A whole chicken with its back bone removed and laid flat in a skillet or roasting pan.
In the 90’s, I knew about Chicken Under a Brick, but I did not transfer that information to my roast chicken recipes until later. From my years as a cook in a gourmet food store, I learned how to cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces. I knew the process and was very confident using sharp knives and handling raw meats. For whatever reason, I did not cut up the chicken at home. If I had, those 7 pounds plus oven-stuffer roasters would have made a more frequent appearance on my dinner table. The usual 2 1/2 hours roasting in the oven would decrease to 1 hour 15 minutes. It still takes time to roast a spatchcock chicken, but it is more reasonable. Better late than never.
Prep a Spatchcock Chicken
Like traditional roast chicken, spatchcock chicken lends itself to an infinite variety of seasoning and types of cuisines. It is delicious plain marinated in buttermilk, salt and paprika, or seasoned with Middle Eastern flavors like Za’atar, fennel and preserved lemons. Take a culinary trip around the world with spatchcock chicken by simply adjusting the herbs and seasonings.
No matter what flavor profile you want, chicken tastes best when seasoned with salt, several hours before cooking. If I plan correctly, I will spatchcock and season a chicken with Kosher salt and keep it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. I prepare the chicken during dinner cleanup so I don’t dirty a clean kitchen. Often, I am likely to forget about this step if I wait till the morning of. I admit there were times I forgot. If that happens, season the chicken with salt then leave it to rest at room temperature for an hour. Even that bit of time makes a difference in flavor and tenderness.
I never miss an opportunity to roast vegetables, especially potatoes, with chicken. After a long roast, the vegetables become luscious with pronounced flavor. For this recipe, this extra step is optional. If you roast the chicken in a skillet, roast the vegetables in a separate dish. It will be too crowded in the skillet, and the chicken will steam. Sheetpans are perfect pans for roasting chicken with vegetables.
What is for dessert? Try Double Coconut Pie
Honey mustard spatchcock chicken is a family favorite and so easy to make. All you have to remember is use equal parts honey and mustard. Any additional amounts of herbs and spices is up to you and your taste buds. Personally, I love sage and chicken together and believe it adds earthy notes against the sharp mustard and sweet honey. Also, I like this sweet and savory sauce with some heat from chili peppers. My preference with spicy ingredients is their heat hangs in the background without drowning the other herbs and spices. Sometimes adding a small amount of chili pepper makes the other ingredients more pronounced. Play around with the different herbs and spices and see what you create.
This recipe is also delicious cooked over indirect heat on the grill.
Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken
- 1 4-5 lb 2 K roasting chicken
- Kosher salt depending on the weight of your chicken, about 1TB
- 10 sage leaves - divided
- 1/4 cup (63 g) Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup (82 g) honey
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground chili powder or to taste
Optional roasted vegetables
- 8 oz (385 g) small new potatoes cut in half or quartered
- 4 / 6 oz (170 g) shallots, peeled and cut in quarters
- 1/2 (about 216 g) fennel bulb sliced in thin wedges
- 4 garlic cloves cut in half lengthwise
- 12 oz (358 g) grape tomatoes
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil - divided
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt- divided
- 3 sprigs of thyme
How to spatchcock a chicken.
1- Remove the neck and gizzards from the cavity of the chicken. Rinse the inside and outside with cold running water. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
2- Place the chicken on a cutting board breast side down with the legs pointing towards you.
The back bone runs through the middle of the back and is about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches wide.
3- Grab hold of the "tail" end with one hand and cut along a side of the backbone toward the neck with good kitchen scissors. Repeat on the other side of the back bone.
4- If you do not have kitchen scissors, score the skin through to the meat with a sharp chef's knife along each side of the backbone. Turn the chicken upright onto its neck, and slice along the side of the backbone. Cut through the skin, meat and bones down to the neck. Lay the chicken down and open the chicken up like a book, and cut through the other side of the backbone.
5- Once the backbone is removed, turn the chicken over breast meat facing up, and press down on the sternum until you hear a pop and feel the breastbone release and lie flat.
6- Tuck the wing tips under the back of the neck, or trim them off so they do not burn.
Save the backbone for chicken stock.
Prep the chicken
The night before, cut the back bone off the chicken.
Generously, sprinkle Kosher salt all over the chicken on both sides. Slide a sage leaf under the skin and on top of the breast meat on each breast. Repeat for each thigh. Let the salted chicken rest for 30 minutes uncovered on the counter.
Place the chicken in the refrigerator, uncovered overnight and up to 24 hours.
One hour before you want to begin cooking take the chicken out of the refrigerator. Let the chicken come to room temperature.
Putting it altogether
Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C)
While the chicken is coming to room temperature, make the honey mustard sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, honey, ground chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt until combined.
Rough chop, or snip with scissors, 4 sage leaves and add to the honey mustard. Taste and correct the seasonings.
Once the chicken has come to room temperature, baste the chicken on both sides with the honey mustard. Get a good even coat over the whole bird .
Place 4 sage leaves in the center of a low sided sheet pan, or 12-inch skillet,(30 cm) and place the chicken over the sage leaves.
If adding the optional vegetables, put the potatoes, fennel shallots and garlic into a medium bowl. Stir in 2 TB extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add the prepared vegetables in an even layer around the chicken on a sheet pan. Then scatter the thyme sprigs over the vegetables.
Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile add the tomatoes in the same bowl you used for the vegetables, and stir in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Later, scatter the tomatoes around the vegetables after 20 minutes of roasting.
If you have honey mustard sauce left, baste the chicken with the remaining sauce. Use up all the honey mustard sauce.
Rotate the pan left to right and front to back, and roast for 20 minutes more. Check the chicken and vegetables to see if they are done cooking. The chicken is done cooking when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is at 165°F (74°C) and the breast meat is 170°F (77°C), and the juices run clear. There should be no cloudy, pink or blood color in the meat juices. Make sure you check the temperature of both breasts and thighs. The vegetables are done when they are tender in the middle when pierced with a fork.
If the chicken is not done, continue to roast and check at 5 - 10-minute intervals depending on how much more the chicken needs to roast. Often the breast and thighs cook at different rates and one is done roasting before the other. If either part is done and you still have a way to go before the other portion of the chicken is done, cut off the done part and let it rest on a carving board.
If the vegetables are finished roasting before the chicken, remove the vegetables and place in a serving dish or plate. You want the vegetables to be tender, but still maintain its shape. Keep the vegetables warm while the chicken is roasting.
When the chicken is done, place it on a carving board and let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting it up.
Cut into 8 pieces and place on a platter surrounded by the roasted vegetables. Serve family style.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Comfort food comes in many forms for me, and Roast Chicken is one of them. It is a comfort because of the time, smells and memories that are present while the chicken is roasting and the warm, caramelized flavors that linger while eating. A reassuring and healing meal, one I often prepare for friends in need.
Roast chicken needs to be planned ahead, there is no rushing around here. Work and errands are done and activities are completed. Life slows down and in my case it means everyone is home. When my kids were younger I often prepared roast chicken when the weather was bad, and we were comfortably housebound. Once the chicken was roasting in the oven, we could relax together. The smell of the herbs and roasting chicken fills the house and is like being swaddled in a warm blanket on a cold blowy, winter evening.
The very first main course entrée I made, completely on my own, was roast chicken. I was 16 years old. My dad, two brothers and I had to fend for ourselves while mom was away. Naturally, I volunteered to cook dinner, and without blinking, I decided on roast chicken. It is amazing how ignorance is bliss. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it never occurred to me that I could not do it.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.