Why did The Chicken Cross The Road?
It seems that the weather is taking an upswing after the recent rain and the mercury is rising as we head towards the weekend. Last week was rather 'full-on' for me for many reasons that I shall not bore you with; but suffice to say the latter part of it was spent running around like the proverbial headless chicken - which is now the subject of this particular blog - minus the running around!
I had intended to make a sumptuous roast chicken dinner for five for our 'F.N.D' but two participants pulled out. I was starting to run extremely late and I needed a quick fix for the exceptionally large bird sitting in the refrigerator that would mean we could eat at an acceptable hour and not be eating dinner at breakfast time.
Eyeballing the bird, I realised that roasting it whole would take almost three hours as it was so vast. The next best option was to either joint it into smaller parts or spatchcock it. I chose the latter option which keeps the bird whole but opens it out flat by removing the backbone and cracking the breastbone. Most people don't have much of a clue how to prepare or joint a chicken, preferring to rely on their butcher to perform the task, but it is a useful skill to learn and means that if you are caught out (like I was) you will be able to flatten your chicken so that it cooks quickly and evenly while remaining juicy and succulent.
There are two methods for spatchcocking any bird. The first is to cut down the backbone with a razor sharp cleaver which can be dangerous if you're not confident and lethal if the cleaver is not sharp enough to tackle the job.
The alternative method is to grab a good pair of chicken scissors or kitchen shears and cut up both sides of the backbone as illustrated in the image below.
Then simply turn the chicken breast side up and press down between the breasts with the heel of your hand until you hear a crack to flatten it. The chicken might look a little bit like road-kill on first look (hence the catchy title) but the simple act of opening it out reduces the cooking time by almost half and once it is rubbed with a little oil and some herbs and cooked, it will be a thing of rare beauty; bronzed and glistening with a crispy skin and moist juicy flesh, just like the cast of Love Island!
Back to MY Friday Night; with my chicken suitably flattened looked around for some '
"fridge-spiration". I had a bag of those small sweet pointy peppers that needed using up and half a jar of roasted peppers in oil so decided to create a kind of Spanish style chicken. this was a happy accident as it was absolutely delicious and something I will be making again. I am sure this recipe will work just as well with drumsticks and thighs, just breasts or even a jointed chicken but adjust your cooking time accordingly.
SPANISH STYLE SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN
1 spatchcocked chicken
2-3 tablespoons olive oil or the oil from the roasted peppers
1-2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1-2 sweet peppers or 4-5 small ones cut in halves or quarters
1-2 red onions, shallots or white onions cut in wedges
2-3 cloves garlic -smashed
1 small orange or lemon cut in wedges or half and half
1 small handful of olives
1-2 small chilies split - optional
1-2 sprigs rosemary
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 bay leaves
2-3 plum tomatoes or a box of baby plum tomatoes - large ones in wedges.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
One pair of disposable plastic gloves
Pre-heat your oven to around 200c gas 6. Line the grill pan from your oven with two layers of thick foil for easy clean-up.
Place the herbs and garlic with the chilies (optional) towards the centre of the tray, roughly where the chicken will sit. Put the peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives and orange or lemon in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss with a tablespoon or more of the olive oil and then add to the tray.
Pour the rest of the olive oil into the bowl and stir in the smoked paprika. Put on your plastic gloves and rub the chicken all over, inside and out, with the smokey paprika oil. place the chicken on top of the herbs, skin side up and drizzle the remnants of the oil over the bird. Season with freshly ground pepper and some salt.
Open roast until the bird is a deep russet mahogany colour and the vegetables are just starting to char at the edges. You can test if it is cooked as the legs will easily detach from the bird and the juices will run clear when the chicken is pierced with a knife through the thickest part of the leg joint. Scatter over the parsley and serve with the vegetables.
LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS!
Because we were expecting five and we were reduced to three, there was half a chicken left which was just begging to be turned into my take on Aroz Con Pollo: A.K.A Spanish style chicken and rice.
I am completely convinced that I could give a home cook on any continent, anywhere in the world, a chicken and a bag of rice and never eat the same dish twice. It is open to infinite possibilities and endless combinations.
First off, take all the chicken off the bone and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I find it easiest to do with a pair of disposable gloves and some kitchen scissors. As I had a fair amount of vegetables left over from dinner I didn't bother to prepare any more but you could easily supplement what's left with some freshly sauteed onion, garlic, celery, peppers, mushrooms etc.
Take a large deep skillet that has a well fitting lid and cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil. If you are using some fresh vegetables now is the time to gently sautee them until tender.
Add a cup of paella rice to the oil and stir to coat and then half to one tablespoon of smoked paprika. Gently fold in the leftover chicken and vegetables and add one cup of chicken or vegetable stock and one cup of tomato juice or passata. My rule of thumb is double the quantity of stock/tomato to rice, so if you need to feed more people, just add a further half cup of rice and another cup of liquid. I have been known to add some sliced chorizo or some chopped up Yarden turkey cabanos for added flavour.
You can add a handful or two of frozen peas for colour and then bring to the boil, give it all a stir and then turn down to a simmer, put on the lid and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is tender. Turn the heat off and leave the lid on for 5-7 minutes then fluff with a fork and serve piled into bowls and garnished with a little chopped parsley - and a glass of wine!