Not enough of you have joined me in my ongoing war against pre-cut chicken parts, so today I'm here to scream into the void just a little bit more. When full time work vaporized for me, one of the first luxuries to get axed were the neatly trimmed packages of chicken breast or thighs that populate your grocer's meat department. Those babies can cost upwards of five dollars a pound on a bad day, whereas an entire five pound bird can practically be had for a song. There's really no two ways about it—if you're trying to save money during these troubled times yet are still buying pre-cut chicken parts, you automatically relegate yourself to the status of recession amateur.
Keep in mind, I was pretty terrified the first time I tried cutting up a whole bird. I leaned heavily on the scissor technique explained in this short video, and it rather beautifully absorbed all the hesitations I'd associated with this most maligned of culinary tasks. All kidding aside, if someone out there is making a list of the world's most valuable secrets, the ability to dismember a chicken ought to be on it. We'll cover this in detail at some later date, but to get you warmed up to the idea, here's a similar but even easier technique.
I'm talking about spatchcocking—a fun word to type, and one which offers appealing shock value when spoken aloud in the presence of timid company. If you can make a paper snowflake, you can become an expert at this on your first attempt. Spatchcocking's advantages are perhaps too numerous to list, but among them are the simplicity, the minimal time investment, and the supremely rewarding payoff of juicy meat and a crispy exterior. Watch this short video tutorial to get started.
Since it's all about the outdoor grilling during these months of high summer, I opted to make a variation of chicken-under-a-brick, which involves weighing down your freshly spatchcocked bird on the grill with foil-wrapped weights. In lieu of actual bricks, you can also use your biggest and heaviest cast iron skillet to achieve the same effect, which is what I did to make the beastie pictured here.
Naturally, you'll need a marinade. I recommend a mixture of olive oil and whichever seasonings you're in the mood for. Garlic, rosemary, and lemon have a great history together, so why not reap the rewards of this proven flavor trifecta?
- Finely chop up the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and 4-6 cloves of garlic.
- Add about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
- Apply mixture evenly to both sides of your freshly spatchcocked bird, salt and pepper according to your preference, and then cover and refrigerate for several hours.
- Prepare your grill for medium-low cooking.
- When grill is hot, retrieve chicken from the fridge, let excess marinade drip off, and squeeze the juice from one whole lemon all over it. Place bird on grill with the skin side down.
- When the bird seems settled (3 minutes or so), place your cast iron skillet on top of it, close grill, and let cook for 10-15 minutes. When the skin looks deliciously crispy, flip your bird over, and replace the skillet for another 10-15 minutes of cooking time. And by the mercy of whichever god you tremble in the face of, remember to use an industrial strength pothandle when maneuvering the skillet, or else you could end up reenacting that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazi guy burns the holy hell out of his hand.
- When the chicken is done cooking, remove it from the heat and let sit for ten minutes. If you did everything properly—and I can't imagine that you didn't—you'll be basking in the complements of your cookout companions for the remainder of the day. For all your hard work, here's an appropriate MP3 for your iPod's "Backyard Barbecue" playlist.