Having had a bit of a brainstorm at T&G Towers, we've decided that it was high time we showed you a few tricks of the trade. Special customer requests, both online and in the shop, are not unusual and we are always more than happy to oblige. However, there are some things that you can do at home and once you mastered some of the basics in butchery, your own personal sense of pride will feel more than palpable. In fact, after what we've got to show you, there is the danger of turning into somewhat of smug bore at dinner parties and BBQs.
'Yah, well you know, once you discover how to butterfly a leg of lamb, the world's your oyster really. Before slapping it on the grill just now, I just simply whipped the bone out and marinated it for an hour or two, with some preserved lemon, garlic and ras-el-hanout. Yah, it's raally good. Another glass of vino collapso anyone?'
To kick things off, we are going to take things steady though and show you how to spatchcock a whole chicken and for some, this will be akin to teaching your Grandmother to suck eggs. But for the uninitiated, once you've seen how easy it is to do, there will be no stopping you.
Why spatchcock - or 'flatten' - a chicken in the first place? You may be asking. Well, is it just a very simple way to cook chicken faster. Conventional roasting times, depending on the size of your chook of course, normally lead to 90 minutes. Whereas a spatchcocked chicken will take an hour in the oven (or until the meat has reached an internal temp of 75°C). If cooking over flame and wood, a sandwiched chicken can be flipped with ease, to prevent scorching. And when it comes to flavouring, you can go to town by rubbing seasoning all over the surface of the chicken. Lots of recipes call for the cavity of whole chickens to be seasoned properly, as well as the outside. Which is all fine and dandy but it is not the easiest of things to do. Especially if you have got hands like shovels. Not a problem with a spatchcocked chicken though!
One caveat is that you must make sure you have a good, heavy, sharp knife to do this. If in doubt, resort to some clean kitchen shears.
The recipe that follows our quick pictorial tutorial is very straightforward. After spatchcocking, all you need to do is to massage the chicken with a little oil and a generous amount of our Tasty Bird Rub. Which contains smoked Maldon sea salt, fennel seed and mustard powder, along with a few other ingredients for good measure. The vegetables to accompany are down to you, but a neat sauce to pair with chicken is one that is made using watercress. Creamy, peppery and slightly herbaceous, it is a bit different from your usual chicken gravy, constructed with say Madeira. But it does marry up rather well with chicken and lends a degree of freshness to proceedings, as Spring begins to wake up.
This is a last minute suggestion but this really would be a good idea for a Mother's Day dinner. And when she polishes it all off and asks if you got your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, you can proudly say 'No Mum, I did it aaaaalll by myself.'
HOW TO SPATCHCOCK A CHICKEN
First, get hold a nice, well-cared for, free range chicken. Like one from Herb Fed farm (via us)
Untie the chicken and loosen it up by taking it by the legs and giving it a jiggle. Then place it down, with the back facing you, Parson's nose up in the air. Holding your knife firmly, slice downwards, along one side of the chicken's spinal column, through the ribs, straight towards one side of the neck.
Repeat on the other side of the chicken's spinal column.
Remove the spine and then slice into the centre of the breast bone, taking care not to go all the way through.
And 'Voila' - as Raymond Blanc likes to say...
You have just spatchcocked a chicken. Congratulations! (Now go have a beer.)
Recipe - Spatchcocked Chicken with Watercress Sauce
- Heat your oven to 200°C and take your chicken from out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
- Spatchcock the chicken as per the instructions above and then massage a little oil all over. Followed by a generous amount of our Tasty Bird Rub.
- Place on top on a tray with a grill, so that heat can flow under the bird and roast in the oven for an hour, or until the thigh meat reaches an internal temp of 75°C.
- Rest for 15 minutes in a warm space before carving.
- Whilst the chicken is cooking, make the watercress sauce by placing a saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and as the butter to melt, followed by the chopped shallot. Cook until soft.
- Add the white wine and turn the heat up a notch, so that it reduces quickly.
- When the wine has reduced right down (to about a tablespoon) add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and cook through for another 2 minutes or so, and then add the watercress, which will wilt quite quickly down into the sauce but give it another 2 minutes.
- Blitz the sauce in a blender and check for seasoning, before pouring into a jug.
- Serve up your chicken and watercress sauce with seasonal vegetables, such as new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.