another good sunday lunch: spatchcocked chicken in a smoky lemon marinade

spatchcocked chicken with
smoky lemon marinade
There is nothing like a good word in the English language. There are words that look positively appealing on the written or printed page. I revel in their architectural appearance (and yes I am something of a font nerd). 

I once had an artist boyfriend, a funny, ebullient and very articulate chap, who could convulse me with laughter with a few pithy words and a raise of an eyebrow. Early on in our relationship, at a supposedly relaxing Sunday afternoon brunch, the artist thought it would be fun to do the Sunday newspaper crossword puzzles. While I love the English language, I am not very fond of crossword puzzles (or Scrabble for that matter); I suspect they bring out the worst competitive excesses in me. Since it was early on in our relationship, I was prepared to show willing, since he seemed so keen and enthusiastic. (Needless to say, that didn't last long!)

smoked paprika and
rosemary marinade
The artist insisted on both reading out the clues and filling in the answers - I didn't really care because I had no intention of putting my heart and soul into it; I was trying to cultivate an air of easy charm and good humour; this was after all a relaxing Sunday afternoon. But it was not long before I could feel the waves of frustration and irritation enveloping me. I was very tense indeed. Is he doing "this" deliberately to annoy me? Because if he is, then it is definitely working!

The artist eventually put me out of my misery. He explained that while I could see black text printed on a white page, his dyslexia caused him to see white shapes and squiggles on a black background. Oh dear God! The penny clattered. How on earth can you read? I asked guiltily. With great difficulty, he grinned, somewhat ruefully.

So while the artist and I were never going to be able to agree on the beauty and form of a word, we could agree that some words just sound right.

Spatchcock is just one of those words. I suspect it appeals to the child in me - which I would like how the word sounds even if I had no idea what it means. Spatch . . . cock . . . a splattering thump of a word that appeals to my ears; it is a word that I really like to get my tongue around and my teeth into. Spatchcock is a sort of a biff-pow of a word, like those old Batman TV shows - something to excite the audience as the superhero wins the day.

The etymology of the word is something of a mystery. The word is found in English and Irish cookbooks in the 18th century but seems to have fallen out of favour in cooking terms until a revival in the late 20th century (with the likes of Nigella and Jamie). The word itself is used to describe a way of preparing poultry (and game birds), by splitting the carcass down the back and removing the backbone. The bird is then grilled or roasted and is sometimes known (possibly more baffling) as frogging the chicken!

But what spatchcocking will do, is enable you to get a marinade into all areas of the bird as well as to speed up cooking times - which makes it perfect for barbecuing and grilling too.

While your butcher can spatchcock the bird for you, it is easy enough to do this at home with a heavy-duty pair of scissors or poultry shears. Since I had just acquired some shears (oh joy, I love my kitchen gadgets!), it was time to roll into action.

Spatchcocking is as simple as turning the bird over onto its belly. Cut through along one side of the backbone and then along side the other, removing it completely. It makes a rather disconcerting crunching sound! Remember to keep the backbone, as this is going to go into your gravy later. (If getting the butcher to spatchcock your bird, make sure you retain the trimmings).

Open the bird out and flip it over. Press down (or batter with a tenderising mallet) to widen the surface are. Your bird is now ready to marinade.
I decided to go for my favourite smoked paprika marinade with added lemon. I made a basic mushroom and onion gravy to which I had added the trimmings and simmered to wring out more chicken flavours. I then added the infused smoky lemon and chicken juices from the roasting pan to the gravy before serving. Fragrant. Perfect.

1 comment:

Janice said...

Brilliant post. I have the same feelings about crosswords and smart alecky people and their clues and answers. I either know it or I don't! Spatchcocked chicken is such a good thing to do and much easier than it sounds.