Monday, February 25, 2013

On Anatomy of the Bird

People are scared of butchering birds.  I used to be too.  Want to get the most bird for your buck (insert laugh here) you'll need to buy it whole.  I can find a whole chicken for about $1.19lb vs. $2.99 for boneless skinless chicken breast.  Not only is the whole bird cheaper, but you get a lot more flavor and mileage from it.
Thankfully most markets take care of the bulk of dirty work for us.  The whole chickens come plucked, cleaned and void of head and feet.  The innards we need for gravy making come neatly bagged up and ready to go.  Nothing scary--just a neat, clean package of bird ready to be roasted.
Well most of us would think of roasting first, but it's not the only thing to do with a whole chicken.  Now bear in mind that anything we do to the chicken we can also do to a turkey.  In theory we could also do it to a game bird, but those tiny little guys are more than I'm willing to tackle.
This is the first part in a multi-part series on how to deal with a whole bird.  Today we'll take it easy; we're going to spatchcock, or butterfly, the chicken.  Why spatchcock?  It cuts the cooking time down and gives you 360 degree crispy roasted skin (and let's face it that's why we eat it anyway right?).

Still with me?  Haven't gone running for the hills yet?  Good. 
First things first equipment.  You'll need a good sharp pair of kitchen shears.  I have these purchased from Amazon and I love them.  If you're shopping for a pair of shears the most important feature is that they come apart.  If they don't come apart they aren't going to be cleaned properly.
You'll also need a large cutting board, a bowl or bag for the trash and somewhere to deposit dear old Bob once you've dispatched of him.

Alright we're ready.  Step one.  Over the sink remove the bird from the packaging.  Most of the grocery store birds are packed in liquid, which you don't want running all over the counter.  Drain it and set the interior pouch aside.  Move the chicken to your cutting board, butt toward you, back up.

Next hook the thumb of your non-dominant hand inside the chicken to hold him steady.  Carefully insert the shears to the right of the backbone and start to snip.  This will take a good bit of pressure, it is after all, bone we're cutting through.

Once you're through the right side open the chicken up.  Grasp the tail and hold it tightly.  Now you'll want to snip down the other side of the chicken removing the spine completely.  If you make stock toss the spine into your stock bag. 

Here comes the fun part.  Open the bird up like a book, inside facing up.  Take your hands, place them on the breast bone and push down.  You want to crack the breast bone so the bird lays as flat as possible.

You're in the home stretch now.  You could just stop here.  I do one more thing to help the chicken cook evenly.  In order for the wings to stay close to the body and brown properly without burning you'll want to tuck them in.  I cut one small slit in each breast and tuck the wing into the slit.

That's it.  You've made your previously roundish bird into a nice flat surface.  My favorite cooking method for a spatchcocked chicken is the grill.  Check back tomorrow for an easy one pan recipe using your beautifully butterflied bird!

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