Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Butterfly Chicken Dance

Lately, I've not really been cooking in a challenging way. I've been slacking off in meal preparation, preferring to take the easy route and do the bare minimum. Which, of course, gives me NO blog fodder at all, so I guess I'd better step back up to the plate or at least to the cutting board.

The February issue of Bon Appétit appeared in my mailbox, and I finally get around to perusing through it. (Look--it's the "Green Issue"! but, we're going to pack it with some "feel good" food as well. I'm still getting used to the new, "hipper" format of the magazine, so I'm not going to pass judgement on that for a couple more issues. As long as they keep the RSVP column, where readers request restaurant recipes, I'll be happy. Plus, this issue has Pierce Brosnan on the back page. Now, that is what I call "yumm-o"!)

"The Earth Friendly Dinner Party" sort of catches my eye, but the pictures of Fennel and Turnip Crudites with Fennel Salt, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup with Sage Breadcrumbs turn me right off. Seriously, who the hell has time to make something with 15 words in the title? And, it's just the first course.

The Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika does catch my eye, because I'm always looking for ways to use that smoked paprika that I lurve so much. That might be a good thing, so I dog-ear that page.

I think no more about this dinner article until I get to a new section, entitled Prep School. The first illustration is of how to properly butterfly a whole chicken. Hmm, I think to myself, *this* is interesting...I'd never thought about butterflying a whole chicken for roasting...not that it's a totally uncommon thing, but it really had never crossed my little pea brain. I read a little more and discover that this technique goes with the Roast Chicken with Rosemary-Garlic Paste from the Earth Friendly Dinner...which I had totally missed, because the recipe was tucked away on the inner colum of the page, close to the staple.

Flipping back to page 98, I read the recipe, which involves making a paste of fresh rosemary, garlic, and olive oil and rubbing under the skin and over the entire chicken. Well now, not sure why this is "earth friendly," but it sounds pretty Poodlevania friendly.

For all my angst over cutting up a whole chicken, butterflying one gave me no problems. Got out the handy dandy kitchen shears and followed the directions:

Butterflying a Chicken

1. Put the chicken, breast side down, on your cutting board. Starting at one end, cut down one side of the backbone, staying as close to the bone as possible. It may take a little effort to cut through the ribs, so good kitchen shears are essential. Don't try this with a regular chef knife, because I sense that method to be just fraught, fraught I tell you, with danger. A trip to the emergency room would possibly be in your future.

2. Cut along the other side of the back bone and remove it. You could do the responsible thing and freeze it to use at another time for soup or stock...which is what I'm doing with the best of intentions of actually using it, but it may not happen. And, I'm okay with that.

3. Splay (don't you just love that word!) the chicken open like a book, and then flip it over so that it is skin side up.

4. Flatten the chicken with the heels of both hands, using your body weight to bear down on the breastbone and ribs.

Pretty darn easy, if I do say so myself. This technique should allow the chicken to cook faster and more evenly. I whipped up the rosemary-garlic paste...which I modified somewhat, because I had no juniper berries, and I added some fresh thyme, because I had it. And doubled the garlic, because...well, why not? A little extra garlic never hurt a roasted chicken.

(Here's a link to a YouTube video on butterflying or spatchcocking (another great word!) a whole chicken The guy doing the demo goes into a little more depth with his butterflying than I did--I didn't remove that cartilage piece or tuck the wings and it worked out just fine.)

I decided to serve it with some skin-on mashed potatoes and the Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika. The chicken cooked in about 5o minutes, which is less time than it normally takes, so that was good. And, all of the skin got crispy, which is most definitely a good thing. Unfortunately, we were pretty hungry, so I forgot to take a picture of it when it came out of the oven. It was a thing of poultry beauty, though.

The Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika rocked! It was the star of the meal and stole the show from the chicken. Heating up the smoked paprika unleashed even more of its smoky goodness, which is never a bad thing. I highly recommend finding some if you can. If you can't, let me know and maybe I can score some for you. : )

The Rosemary-Garlic paste for the chicken had a little too much rosemary for my taste. And, that was probably my fault, because I just stripped leaves until I thought I had the amount that the recipe listed. Rosemary is one of those herbs that can be a little overpowering to my palate, and a little goes a long way. I added some fresh thyme to the mix as well, and I'm thinking that when I do this again (and I most definitely will), I'll forego the rosemary and just use thyme. That's what's cool about about this type of recipe--the tweakability of it. Rosemary, no rosemary. Add some thyme, use all thyme. This would be great as the the 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken, too.

Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika
(adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2008)

8 cups (packed) kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (from about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot smoked paprika*
Generous pinch of dried crushed red pepper


1. Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water until wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to colander and drain.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika and crushed red pepper; sprinkle with salt. Add kale and sauté until heated through, about 4 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more smoked paprika, if desired. Transfer to serving bowl; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and serve.

Now, go forth and cook something!


Erin said...

Mmm, spatchcocking sounds dirty. The chicken meal sounds delicious! I need to renew my Bon Appetit subscription...

LinC said...

Alton has a great recipe for butterfly chicken that you grill:
It came from his show "A Bird in the Pan" (transcript available on the Good Eats Fan Page).
I've never actually tried doing this, but it seemed pretty cool. Since I have a gas stove, the grill part is at the bottom under real flame. Unfortunately since it's a really low-end stove, there's not much control over how far you can get the food from the flame.

J said...

When, when, when will the fennel frenzy end??? I can't stand it and now I feel like I'm never safe from it being in the list of ingredients that I am eating.

Jeremyinc said...

Those are some pretty grusome pictures! Great recipe though. Not to sure what the poodlevania is all about, if you have anything poodle related you could email me and I'll link to it on my Poodle Puppies website. I just put it up and I'm trying to spread the word.