How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Snipping out the backbone of a chicken was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. Be firm and decisive in your cuts and it should come out rather neatly. The practice of spatchcocking is really nothing more than butterflying, from what I understand. And while the etymology of the word is up for debate, the simplicity of method is not. Your happy little hen ends up splayed in the roasting pan with its wings tucked under the body, therefore cooking much more quickly and evenly than a whole and undefiled bird. Roasting a chicken is a Sunday afternoon affair. Listening to music and sipping wine while you perfume the room with the heady scent of garlic and aromatic herbs; lovingly massaging butter into and under the skin; reading the book review section of the New York Times that you saved all day just for this delicious interlude, while the bird slowly roasts in its own juices. Sundays are the best.

But then comes Monday again and the hectic workweek begins anew. Sigh. Spatchcocking is a perfect way to make something wholesome without a tremendous time commitment. A whole bird roasts under the broiler in about a half an hour. It definitely yields a juicy, tender, delicious bit of bird, and is easy as cake and satisfying, to be sure. However, I am not entirely convinced a simple roast chicken needs improvement. See, here. Decide for yourself. It’s something you should try if you haven’t already, to add to your arsenal of cool kitchen maneuvers you do to impress your friends and influence people. Host a lively dinner party this weekend, and spatchcock that bird, just for kicks.

Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 4-5 lb chicken
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground fennel seeds, coriander seed, cumin seed, and paprika
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Method:

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Turn the broiler on high whilst you prep the bird. Remove the innards and thoroughly wash and pat dry your chicken. Place chicken breast side-down on a plastic cutting board.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Use sharp kitchen shears to cut along one side of the backbone. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Cut up other side of the backbone, and remove. You can save the bone for making stock.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Spread chicken apart, and flip over, so that the breast faces up.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Spread the legs akimbo, tucking the wings back.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Tuck the wing tips under the skin of the breast.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Cover it with olive oil and season with spices and herbs, salt and pepper.

Broil on high, breast side up, for ten minutes. Flip. Broil on high, back side up for ten minutes. Flip. Turn down the broiler to low and finish cooking, approximately fifteen minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. The chicken should be golden brown with crisp skin. If skin begins to blacken and burn, cover with foil. Remove from oven.

Let it rest for fifteen minutes. Carve it up and serve with lemon wedges, an herb salad, white wine, and crusty bread. The end.

 

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes

It seems like there are a few different ways to approach Valentine’s Day. There’s the moodily-lit, glossy magazine ad version of the day, which seems to paint women as these precious little gift-obsessed lunatics, who will throw all of your worldly possessions out of a second-story window if you don’t deliver precisely the correct combination of “De Beers tennis bracelet” and “breakfast in Paris.” There’s the saccharine-sweet Hallmark-endorsed version of the day, which insists that unless you fill a room with Mylar balloons (a gift really only appropriate for hospitalized children), a gilt-framed, faux sepia-toned photograph of yourself, and a giant stuffed polar bear holding a heart which reads “Hugs Fur You.” There’s the hilariously-inept version of Valentine’s Day that I saw several television advertisements for this year, which seems to suggest that a heart-shaped box of grey, chalky Russell Stover chocolate from Rite Aid and a half-grunted “Hey, every day is Valentine’s Day, for us” is a suitable way to mark the occasion.

We’ve always tried not to place too much emphasis on the more superficial aspects of the day, forgoing presents over the years and instead trying to create a memory together. These experiences have varied wildly over the years, usually directly corresponding to our financial solvency at the time. Sometimes celebrating Valentine’s Day has meant weekend trips to New Orleans; other times, local romantic dinners out together, or even dried, glittered macaroni glued to a giant cardboard heart. This year, with a newborn baby in the house, we are celebrating even more simply. We tend to lean more toward the grammar school-style, cut out paper heart-version of Valentine’s Day, and allow ourselves to revel in its hokey sweetness.

These cupcakes are the perfect embodiment of that style. Rather than wringing our hands over an overwrought, Raspberry Chocolate Silk Martini Souffle that falls all over itself trying to be seductive, these cupcakes are simple and sweet. Innocent, even. They’re a handmade Valentine stuffed into a shoebox with your name written on it. They recount a childlike infatuation, in cupcake form. And in our case, they even feature Jillian’s favorite cereal, which she pretends is Kashi GoLean Honey Almond Flax, but is really Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

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Crispy Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Crispy Oven-Roasted PotatoesMy dad was completely obsessed in his search for a perfectly-crispy hash brown. It was perhaps the most important metric by which he measured a breakfast place; the best diner breakfast in the world could be ruined by a side of wet, soggy, greasy hash browns. For him, such lazy inattention to detail was taken as personal affront. How would someone who dared to charge money for fried eggs possibly expect to get away with calling cubes of boiled potato and onions sprinkled with paprika, a suitable pairing for breakfast?

When he quit his four-pack-a-day habit and subsequently became utterly consumed with thoughts of elaborate breakfasts that would put even the “Full Irish” to shame, which he would begin cooking at dawn, he tried a few different techniques. There was a brief pause, I remember, on frozen hash browns that could be cooked in the toaster. He opted to fry the frozen slabs in oil, instead, which resulted in plenty of golden crunch, but a completely obliterated shredded potato inside that was reduced to dust. Ultimately, he settled on slicing the previous nights’ leftover baked potato, the ubiquitous starch found at nearly every family dinner, and frying the slices in oil before sprinkling them with salt and pepper. The results were good, but not perfect: the inside of the potato slice would pull apart, becoming soggy and overcooked, while the skin of the potato would pull away from the flesh and become bitter.

I think he would have been happy with this technique, a slight spin on the version of the crispy potato he nearly perfected in our kitchen in Tenants Harbor. As with a properly cooked french fry, the secret to these potatoes is in the par-boiling. A few minutes in some boiling water, followed by a finish in a hot oven yields a fried potato that is golden and crunchy on the outside, with a soft, fluffy interior. I like to use Yukon Gold-style potatoes; their yellow flesh is particularly creamy and ever-so-slightly sweet. Dipped in a little Sriracha-spiked ketchup, these potatoes work equally well as a side at dinnertime, as they do at breakfast.

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Brown Butter and Bacon Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the first time in twelve years, and with our baby about to be born, we spent New Year’s Eve sober, sitting on the couch. Our first New Year’s Eve together was in the year 2000. Remember how we all almost died in Y2K, or were inconvenienced, or something? On break from college, Malcolm was staying with his parents at their swingin’ senior condo in the Florida Keys. But he missed me desperately, and told me so in no fewer than two print-packed postcards. I knew that it was love. We’d spent the last four months in constant contact, talking all the time, watching stuff like “The Practice” on TV in his first floor dorm room, listening to stuff like Jello Biafra and Charles Bukowski in my fourth floor room, running around and driving around and drinking around New Haven, and definitely not skipping our autobiography writing workshop. He decided to fly me down.

I wore my favorite Power Puff Girls t-shirt on the plane my mom didn’t want me to board. He met me at the gate and we walked arm and arm into the sultry tropical night, a harbinger of things to come, perhaps. After dinner with his parents, they took us out on their boat and spontaneously we jumped undressed in the water, hoping to impress one another. To make matters even more romantic, we found ourselves surrounded by bio-luminescent plankton, swimming under the stars in an ocean glowing with wonder and dinoflagellates. It may have been the fifth best night of my life thus far, and is an important piece of totally factual lore, as we tell and retell the story of our courtship.

Not every January 31st has been quite so dramatic, but we’ve been together to ring in the new and wring out the old, sipping champagne, wishing on twelve grapes, streaking the halls of fancy hotels, holed up at a cozy cottage in The Catskills, getting shoved and stupid at Brooklyn bars, playing “Rock Band” in a basement in the suburbs, dancing a sort-of-a-salsa with new friends in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula, and cooking a decadent feast with old friends at our apartment in Portland. 2011 was our last New Year as just us, a carefree couple. It was quieter, but lovely, and totally typified the tenor of our lives at the time, as all New Year’s Eves seem to do in retrospect. We cooked and ate and drank until we were totally in our cups. On the menu: bone marrow on toast, lobster bisque, rack of lamb and these: Brown Butter & Bacon Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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Giant Ravioli with Spinach, Ricotta, and Egg Yolk

It’s ten thirty in the morning and I’m making pasta by hand with a baby strapped to my chest. I imagine this is how women have been cooking since The Agricultural Revolution. For a morning I feel connected to grandmothers I will never know, like being an individual is insignificant compared to being an infinitesimal piece of the whole of human history. An egg falls from the counter; it cracks open, slimy on the kitchen floor and I curse, snapped back to the present, into my own selfish reality. It seems like maybe I can do this, and like it might be fun. If I accomplish nothing else today – and I won’t – at least I will have done this one small, yet amazing task. I wonder if I can roll the dough thin enough. (I do.) I wonder if the baby will wake up. (She doesn’t.) I sincerely hope this works. (It does.)

Giant Ravioli with Spinach, Ricotta, and Egg Yolk
Adapted from a recipe in New Classic Family Dinners; Makes 12

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • up to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the ravioli:

  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • up to 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Method:

For the dough:

Use fingers to combine flour, semolina, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle. In a small bowl beat olive oil, egg and egg yolks. Slowly stream liquid into the dry ingredients; combine until mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add water a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Remove from bowl and knead for five minutes – dough will be stiff. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic and let it rest for an hour. Roll out the dough into very thin sheets. I used nothing but a rolling pin and my wits. A pasta machine would also work well here.

For the ravioli:

Blanch spinach for ten seconds in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Drain and transfer to an ice water bath. When cool enough to handle squeeze by the handful until dry, then chop. Should be about one cup.

In a bowl combine ricotta, garlic, spinach, parsley, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Fold in cream until the mixture is malleable.

Cut the pasta into twelve squares: 6 4 1/2-inch and 6 5-inch squares. Cover dough with a damp towel as you work.

Giant Ravioli with Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Ricotta

Spoon two tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto each of the 4 1/2 inch squares.

Giant Ravioli with Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Ricotta

Using the back of a spoon, make a well in each scoop of ricotta.

Giant Ravioli with Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Ricotta

Carefully place egg yolk in the depression.

Giant Ravioli with Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Ricotta

Cover egg yolk with another tablespoon of ricotta.

Giant Ravioli with Egg Yolk, Spinach, and Ricotta

Brush the perimeter of the pasta with water, and gently cover with the 5 inch square of pasta, pinching or pressing the layers together.

In a large pot of simmering (not boiling!), salted water, submerge the ravioli and cook for five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drizzle with olive oil, cheese and parsley to serve.

Note: If you are preparing the ravioli much earlier than you care to cook them, do this:  store them in the freezer on a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkled with semolina.

Huzzah! These giant ravioli are so impressive. A runny egg yolk comes busting forth from the pasta, melding with the warmed cheese and olive oil to create an unctuous sauce. Delicious. It takes some time and a deft hand, but I have no doubt that if I can do it, so can you.

Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwich

We’re still shaking off the Patriots loss, and nursing our post-Superbowl chicken wing hangover here at From Away World Headquarters. As it turns out, two and a half pounds of Buffalo wings are just too many, when your Superbowl party is made up of just two people, no matter how enthusiastic about chicken those two people may be. I also way, way overestimated our needs in the celery stick, wing sauce and bleu cheese dip department, leaving us with a fridge full of various pots and containers full of sauces, yet no actual chicken wings.

In an effort to ease ourselves slowly back out of Buffalo wing eating season, as well as use up all those leftovers, we engineered this chicken salad sandwich. It captures all the flavor of the classic Buffalo wing, in a cool, surprisingly well-balanced sandwich that never overdoes it, in spite of all those competing strong flavors.

I like to poach the chicken for chicken salad sandwiches, mainly because I like the tender texture it gives the chicken. In this case, I also didn’t want to add too many additional flavors, since the sandwich already has so much going on; I imagine, though, that it would be equally delicious using grilled chicken breasts, or even leftover roast chicken parts. Use what you’ve got. You can’t lose with this sandwich.

Buffalo Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Makes 3 or 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 slices of fresh bread, sliced
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 32 oz. box low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons bleu cheese dressing
  • 2 tablespoons bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons prepared buffalo wing sauce, or Frank’s Red Hot brand hot sauce
  • 3-4 leaves of lettuce (Bibb or romaine work well here)

Method:

In a medium saucepan over high heat, cover whole chicken breasts with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. You want to keep the water just below a simmer, or at about 190 degrees, if you have a candy thermometer. Cook, covered, about 20 minutes.

Remove chicken from broth, and let rest for five minutes. Chop chicken into chunks, and combine in large bowl with celery, carrots, bleu cheese dressing, crumbled bleu cheese, and buffalo wing sauce. If chicken salad seems to dry, supplement the dressing with a little more mayonnaise, a teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Stir to combine, and chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.

To assemble sandwiches: Place 3-4 tablespoons of chicken salad on three or four slices of bread. Top with lettuce and top-half of bread slices.