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Monday, May 16, 2011

Butterfly Me to the Moon

We have talked a lot about roast chicken in the past.  There are a million ways to make it and assuming you can get it cooked properly, it's always a crowd pleaser.

Every once in a while I am struck with a way to make something old new again.  Now, you may say why fix what's not broken but I'm all about pushing the envelope, sort of.  (For those of you who are counting, that was three cliches in two sentences.)  What I'm really about is coming up with new and delicious ways to prepare the same old chicken dinner.

The other day I was having a little visit with Mark the Butcher.  He had some nice looking whole chickens.  Just as Mark was about to wrap one up for me I was struck with inspiration.  I have often had him butterfly chickens to cook on the grill but why not cook one in the oven.  I'll bet it would cook faster and more evenly.  Mark sprung into action and in no time I was on my way home with my chicken sans backbone.

I was excited.  Let's face it, there's not much going on around here so a new methodology for cooking chicken could qualify as exciting in my life.  Things might be a little more interesting over at your house, but around here this chicken was a big deal.  For me.

Research was necessary to make this work.  I could just season the chicken up like I would any other chicken or I could go wild and try something new.  A little Food Network research yielded an Alton Brown seasoning paste recipe which I quickly whipped up.  The next step was the cooking process.  Alton suggested broiling the chicken but I had visions of undercooked chicken and a house filled with smoke.  No, I needed another way.

I am embarrassed to tell you who had the best instructions for oven cooking a butterflied chicken.  Sandra Lee.  Yes, Sandra Lee, queen of Semi Homemade,  America's Bake Sale, and Andrew Cuomo's constant companion.  I am sure that Sandy's recipes are tasty, but that whole "semi-homemade" thing is a little scary for me.  Honestly, how hard is it to chop an onion and could frozen onions actually taste as good as fresh?  And I'm not even going to get into the whole "tablescape" thing.

But I digress.  Sandy had a great methodology for cooking this butterflied bird to perfection.  It required a fair amount of attention because the chicken had to be turned over three times, but what the hell, I had time.   I have to tell you, the chicken was delicious, perfectly cooked, and pretty to look at too.  And because I think a roast chicken needs a little au jus, I improvised and deglazed the roasting pan with a little white wine and chicken stock to finish it off.

So, while I may have foregone the themed tablescape in favor of my standard place mats and cloth napkins, Sandra Lee rocks, at least in the case of how to oven roast a butterflied chicken.

Recipe:  Oven Roasted Butterflied Chicken
(Adapted from Alton Brown and Sandra Lee)


1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon, zested
Extra virgin olive oil
1 3-to-4 pound whole chicken, butterflied
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon all purpose flour


Preheat oven to 425.  Position rack in the center of the oven.

Crack the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle until coarsely ground.  Add garlic and salt and work well.  Add lemon zest and work just until you can smell the lemon.  Add just enough oil to form a paste.

Place your butterflied chicken on a plastic cutting board breast side up.  Loosen the skin at the next and the edges of the thighs.  Evenly distribute the garlic mixture under the skin.  Drizzle the skin with olive oil and rub it in, being sure to cover the bird completely.  Season both sides well with salt and pepper.  Arrange the bird in a roasting pan breast side up.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes with the skin side up.  Turn the chicken over and roast for 10 minutes.  Turn the chicken over one more time so that the skin side is up and roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and tent.  Place the roasting pan on the stove over a medium-high flame.  Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping all the browned bits from the pan with a wooden spoon.  Add the chicken stock and the flour and cook until slightly thickened.

Slice the chicken and serve with the au jus.

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