CURRIED SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN made easy

The Taos News - - IN THE KITCHEN -

The word “spatchcock” has be­come pop­u­lar all of a sud­den.

On both coasts, spatchcock chicken is of­fered on menus as though it is a new in­no­va­tion. You can even buy a pre­mar­i­nated spatchcock chicken at a gourmet shop and cook it at home. The ori­gin of the word is prob­a­bly 18th cen­tury English or Ir­ish, and ac­cord­ing to the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary, means “a chicken or a game bird split open and grilled.” Need­less to say, I wanted to try it and dis­cov­ered it was some­thing you could eas­ily do your­self.

To prop­erly spatchcock a chicken, one must use a sharp knife to re­move the back­bone and pos­si­bly the breast­bone so that the chicken can be flat­tened. The ad­van­tage of do­ing so is that all sur­faces are evenly ex­posed to the cook­ing heat, and the re­sult is in­vari­ably crunchy and suc­cu­lent.

I start with a young 3-5 pound fryer, wash it after re­mov­ing it from its pack­ag­ing and let it drain in a colan­der. Then I pre­pare to spatchcock by set­ting the chicken breast side down on a large cut­ting board.

Al­though a lit­tle time-con­sum­ing, re­mov­ing the back­bone is ac­tu­ally sim­ple. I use a Chi­nese cleaver, but a good sharp chef’s knife will also work quite well. Just slide the blade along both sides of the back­bone, sep­a­rat­ing it from the ribs, and re­move it, in ef­fect split­ting the chicken down the back. If you wish, you can care­fully dig around the breast­bone and cut it away to make it eas­ier to lay the chicken breast flat. (As an added bonus, I save these dis­cards in a bag in the freezer with veg­etable trim­mings for mak­ing rich chicken stock later.)

After re­mov­ing the back­bone, wash the chicken again in cold wa­ter and then dry it with pa­per tow­els. It is now ready to be mar­i­nated or rubbed with sea­son­ing. The ap­peal of this method is that you can use any­thing – your fa­vorite rub or even bot­tled salad dress­ing – to sea­son it.

But speak­ing of sea­sons, Au­tumn is here, and with it cooler tem­per­a­tures.

Some peo­ple are start­ing to cook stews, but I want a last hur­rah at the bar­be­cue grill. At the same time, I’m look­ing for a dish to warm up our in­sides.

The an­swer for me is a spicy curried spatchcock chicken – a zesty and sat­is­fy­ing din­ner for fall. You can use pre­blended curry pow­der, but it’s a lot of fun to cre­ate your own mix­ture by puree­ing onions, gar­lic, gin­ger, jalapeños, cit­rus and an as­sort­ment of spices in a food pro­ces­sor. I love the bright color of the mari­nade and the yel­low hue it gives the chicken when it’s grilled, both aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and ap­pe­tiz­ing, too.

Typ­i­cally, cur­ries are served with a side dish of fluffy jas­mine or bas­mati rice. But I’ve dressed it up by us­ing co­conut milk as part of the cook­ing liq­uid for a de­li­cious and more unique rice pi­laf that mar­ries well with the sa­vory chicken. Co­conut milk is read­ily avail­able, and the fin­ished rice is a lit­tle sweet and creamy, with a de­light­ful crunch from the brown bits that stick to the bot­tom of the pan.

Round out the meal with a beau­ti­ful salad. A bumper crop of del­i­cate let­tuces are avail­able in the farmer’s mar­ket. And I’ve been tast­ing the most peachy peaches lately, which I uti­lize for ev­ery­thing from pies to cob­bler. Peaches are a per­fect ad­di­tion to add to a salad, and fruit is a tra­di­tional ac­com­pa­ni­ment to curry. Sprin­kling diced salty feta cheese over the top com­ple­ments the sweet­ness of the peaches, and the salad is as tasty as it is at­trac­tive.

But back to the spatchcock process: why do it at all? Why not just buy a cut-up fryer and grill the parts sep­a­rately?

I’ve learned the hard way that grilling a whole chicken usu­ally means some parts are over­done and oth­ers are raw. Nor­mally, I only buy whole chick­ens when I want to roast them.

But the beauty of spatch­cock­ing a chicken is that it holds to­gether and is su­per easy to grill. My hus­band says he flips it a cou­ple of times. More im­por­tant, the pieces haven’t been dry­ing out on a plas­tic foam tray. The whole chicken’s nat­u­ral ten­der­ness and juici­ness is pre­served. And best of all, you have a vis­ually ap­peal­ing dish to serve your guests.

So, don’t be in­tim­i­dated to spatchcock a chicken. You will be amazed at how ef­fort­less a process it is. And whether you de­cide to blend up the spices for curry or use your own con­coc­tion, I think you’ll find that spatchcock chicken will seam­lessly en­ter your vo­cab­u­lary and fam­ily bill of fare as it now has mine.

Al­though a lit­tle time-con­sum­ing, re­mov­ing the back­bone is ac­tu­ally sim­ple.

The beauty of spatch­cock­ing a chicken is that it holds to­gether and is su­per easy to grill.

To prop­erly spatchcock a chicken, one must use a sharp knife to re­move the back­bone and pos­si­bly the breast­bone so that the chicken can be flat­tened.

By spatch­cock­ing, the whole chicken’s nat­u­ral ten­der­ness and juici­ness is pre­served. And best of all, you have a vis­ually ap­peal­ing dish to serve your guests.

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