Spring Chickens have Sprung!
I have been obsessed with the warm weather pastured eggs for over a month. It's time for the next natural step. The chickens! They are tasting so much yummier than last winter. They taste the way chicken is supposed to taste. Sorry, I know that isn’t very descriptive, but it rings truest to me. Perhaps imagine some artificial chicken bullion and then mentally subtract the artificial over- and undernotes, and then you have a slight sense of what these spring-pastured chickens taste like. While commercial chicken has given rise to the now-so-ubiquitous-its-silly references that everything tastes like chicken (because the chicken we’re accustomed to is so bland it might as well be tough tofu), chicken really has its own unique taste.
Roasting a whole farmers’ market chicken just plain is probably the best way to start, with no more preparation than a brief rub with a baking soda and salt mixture to make the skin crispy. (325 degrees for 75-90 minutes, depending on the size of the bird; put the breast side down for first thirty minutes, and then flip. When almost done, take chicken out of oven and let rest as you get the temperature in oven up to 500. Return the bird to the heat and wait until skin is a nice golden color, about 10 minutes. Remove and let chicken rest for at least ten minutes before slicing, or its wonderful juices will escape into the air!)
But it is June, so I wanted to try a grill method, even if I have to pretend I am outdoors in our lovely but deck/patio/yard-less apartment. Here’s an adapted/stolen version of Cook’s Illustrated’s Italian-Style Grilled Chicken. To see how they do it outside, with bricks (!) go here:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bottom bulbs of green garlic, stems removed.
- break into bulbs, mince or process
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 cup fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/8 cup fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 whole chicken.
(First two steps sucked right off of www.cooksillustrated.com; thanks Cook’s Illustrated!)
1. Combine oil, garlic, lemon zest, and pepper flakes in small saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat, about 3 minutes. Once simmering, add 3 teaspoons thyme and 2 teaspoons rosemary and cook 30 seconds longer. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over small bowl, pushing on solids to extract oil. Transfer solids to small bowl and cool; set oil and solids aside.
2. Following prepping directions below or illustration here (scroll to bottom of webpage), butterfly chicken, flatten breastbone, and tuck wings behind back. Using hands or handle of wooden spoon, loosen skin over breast and thighs and remove any excess fat. Combine 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Mix 3 teaspoons salt mixture with cooled garlic solids. Spread salt-garlic mixture evenly under skin over chicken breast and thighs. Sprinkle remaining teaspoon salt mixture on exposed meat of bone side. Place chicken skin-side up on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Heat grill skillet first in oven set at 350 degrees. When fully heated, about 20-30 minutes, place directly on top of breasts of flattened bird. You’ll hear a nice sizzle, letting you know you are getting nice grill marks.
Bake with grill iron resting on top for about 30 minutes or until meat thermometer says you’ve reached 120 degrees. Then take iron off and turn up heat to 450. Cook another 20 minutes until temp in thigh reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest out of oven for 10 minutes before serving. (Temperature will rise some more after removing from the oven, so don’t worry, it’s done through)
Prepping Chicken for the Grill
1. BUTTERFLY Cut through bones on either side of backbone, then discard backbone.
2. PRESS Flip chicken over, then flatten breastbone and tuck wings behind back.
3. SEPARATE Loosen skin over breast and thighs and remove any excess fat.
4. SALT Spread salt-garlic mixture under skin of breast and thighs. Spread salt mixture on meat of bone side.
photo copyright Stevies