Thursday, March 17, 2016

Roasted Butterflied Chicken a la Jacques Pepin

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

It seems that everyone has an opinion regarding the best way to roast a chicken - whether grandma's method, a favorite chef or restaurant's technique, brined or not, trussed or spatchcocked flat, beercan or trivet held... The variations are endless. I've tried many different methods with varying degrees of success, but my current favorite is Jacques Pepin's "Broiled and Split Roasted Chicken." This preparation takes a little over an hour and yields great flavor, rich color and beautifully crunchy skin with an accompanying pan sauce that is scrumptious. I may never roast a chicken any other way. Of course I'll experiment a bit with the spice mix, you know I can't resist, but it's the broil-and-roast method that is the new winner.

Don't be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients and directions. This recipe is simple to prepare and the results more than make up for any fiddly work removing the backbone with kitchen shears. Do make the pan sauce, it adds a welcome spicy flavor pop to each bite of chicken. Give this recipe a try and you too might think it's the best chicken ever! 

Jacques's Split Roasted Chicken
adapted slightly from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (1999)

A 5-pound roasting chicken, butterflied
1 Tbs melted butter

Spice Mix
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp dried lavender
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt

Deglazing Sauce
2 Tbs minced shallots or spring onions
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbs unsalted butter

  1. Butterfly the chicken (remove backbone, chop off tips of wings, crack/flatten the breastbone).
  2. Place the spices and salt in a grinder and process into a coarse powder. Set the spice mix aside.
  3. Brush both sides of the chicken with melted butter; place skin side down in a large, shallow-rimmed roasting pan. Place the pan on an oven rack adjusted so the chicken is about 6 inches from the heat. Broil for 10 minutes or until the flesh is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set the oven temperature to 400 F.
  4. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the spice mix over the broiled underside of the chicken. Flip it over, breast side up, and arrange it to lay flat in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining spice mix evenly over the skin. 
  5. Place the pan in the center of the oven and roast for 1 hour or until done, basting several times with the pan juices. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer (165 f) or by piercing the thigh (looking for the juices to run clear yellow with no trace of pink). The skin should be crispy and colored deep mahogany. 
  6. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest in a warm oven for 10 minutes while you make the sauce. 
  7. Spoon off all but a tablespoon or two of fat. Place the roasting pan over two burners set to medium heat; add the shallots and cook until they sizzle. Pour in the wine and stock and heat rapidly to simmering, scraping up all of the glazed brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more wine or stock and/or boil it down to thicken a bit. Whisk in the butter just before serving for a richer finish.
  8. To carve, slice the chicken straight down the middle to the breast bone; slice 2 thick 3/4-inch vertical slabs of breast meat from the inside of each breast half. Serve the two outside pieces of breast with wing attached. Separate legs from breast; cut drumsticks away from thighs, then cut thighs in two. 
  9. Arrange the 12 pieces on a serving platter and drizzle some pan sauce over all. Serve, offering more sauce on the side.

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