Broiled butterflied lemon-garlic chicken over peas and mushroom gnocchi

You know how sometimes when you’re dreaming, everything makes sense?  Like, you’re flying and it’s so easy?  Or you get this great idea for a novel that you know would be terrifically compelling?  And you’re sometimes even lucid enough to think, I have to remember this when I’m awake, because if I manage to translate this experience, it’s going to be AMAZING?

And then you wake up, and you try to describe it, and you’re like, “There was something about a boat… and yet, also, somehow it worked on land, and come to think of it, I think I was back in third grade and was somehow… uh, speaking in, like, shapes…?”

That’s roast chicken for me.  I’ve had some good roast chicken, but man, the way it exists in my head is transcendent.  Crispy skin, juicy meat, all bursting with herb and savory flavor and basted in luscious chicken fat… I have this vision in my head that epitomizes gloriously simple home cooking.  Someday I’ll get there.

Broiled Butterflied Lemon-Garlic Chicken

I decided to broil and butterfly for two reasons: 1) A butterflied carcass is way easier to wrangle out of the oven, and as carvers go, I’m the one you pray doesn’t come to your Thanksgiving dinner, and 2) I’ve recently made friends with my broiler and discovered that it really can’t be beat for the crispy exterior/juicy interior combo that makes up so much of my chicken fantasy.  (Once more, for the Googlers: “chicken+fantasy.”  Welcome to Kitchen Dorkitude, perverts.)

Assemble your ingredients:

Chicken 1

1 chicken named Steve (be sure you get one named Steve; it’s important) – my Steve is just a fryer, since I’m only feeding myself, but you may want a roaster-sized Steve for a crowd.  In addition, the makings of a mirepoix (veggies a little past their prime are OK here), some lemon and garlic, and some butter (about 5 T in this case), softened to room temperature.

First off, fire up your broiler. 

Roughly hack up the mirepoix fixin’s and drop them into a roasting pan.  As my man Alton Brown says, sure, we could roast Steve on a rack, but why not build a rack out of something that will actually contribute some flavor?

Chicken 2

Next, prepare your butter.  This is definitely a time for mise en place, as you’re about to be up to your elbows in raw chicken.  For the butter, mince about six cloves of garlic – and I have to detour here to show off the awesome gorgeous super-colorful garlic that one of my friends brought me from his parents’ farm in Ohio.  It was a little on the young side and OMG FRESH and not at all bitter, which never happens with supermarket garlic.  Piss off, vampires!

Chicken 3

Anyway, mince the garlic (even awesome garlic is the same color on the inside), and zest a lemon.

Chicken 4

Mash up your butter, then mix in the garlic and lemon zest, along with parsley, salt, and a good bit of coarsely ground black pepper.

Chicken 4

Do not eat the butter.  It is undignified.  Set it aside.

Now you’re set to tackle Steve.  Take him out of his wrapper, drain any accumulated juices, give him a rinse, and set him up on a cutting board, face down.

Chicken 5

Take your mighty kitchen shears that detach so you can run them through the dishwasher (right?) and prepare to wield them with extreme prejudice.  As you may have noticed, the first thing I do is snip off the ends of the wings.  Those little bastards contain nothing edible; all they want to do is turn black and charred under your broiler.

The next step is to cut your way up through the ribcage on either side of the backbone, so the whole spine is removed.  (The blog gets PG-13 here, kids):

Chicken 6

Crack Steve open.  Say, “Oh, Steve, I can read you like a book!”  Muse that it’s a good thing you live alone.

Your next step is to remove the keel bone between the breasts.  Cut through the membrane covering it, then stick your fingers down where the neck would be and work the bone out.  Nautical enthusiasts will know they have the right bone due to its distinctive shape:

Chicken 7

With that bone gone, you can basically lay Steve completely flat, like so:

Chicken 8

Flip Steve over and loosen the skin around the breasts and thighs.  Spread equal portions of your lemon-garlic-parsley butter into each quarter, between the skin and the meat, reserving a small amount for the jus at the end.

Chicken 8

Lay Steve breast-up on the vegetables in the roasting pan, and then, after carefully explaining to him that you will not tolerate inappropriate advances, give him a massage with olive oil.  Sprinkle him with salt and pepper.

Chicken 9

Shove him under the broiler.  After about 10 minutes, you’ll want to check to see if the skin is crisping up and turning dark brown.  The meat isn’t done, obviously, but you don’t want to burn the skin.  After 10 minutes, mine looked like this:

Chicken 11

If this is the case, flip Steve over and return him to the broiler.  (The skin made all these nom nom crackly noises when I flipped it, but I managed not to stick my tongue into the scalding hot meat and vegetables, because: also undignified.)  My broiler seems to run a little less hot than most, so it took fully another 20 minutes before we had this:

Chicken 12

In any case, you’ll want to keep checking to make sure the juices are running clear.  Once they are, remove Steve to a cutting board to rest:

Chicken 13

Cover him with foil so he doesn’t get chilly. 

Meanwhile, put your roasting pan on the stove and fire up a burner.  Measure out a cup of Château du Whatever Cheap Red Was On Sale (a Chilean Cabernet, in this case):

Chicken 14

Use it to deglaze the roasting pan.  Scrape up the browned bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon.  Once you’ve done so, add the remaining wad of garlic-lemon butter and half a cup of chicken stock, then reduce it a bit.  I had a whole bunch of poultry seasoning lying around, so I dusted some of that in at this point too; some fresh herbs would also be good.

Chicken 15

You can get to carving up the chicken while the jus is reducing, because you’re almost ready to eat.  Once the jus is slightly thickened and tastes more like chicken than wine, drain out the veggies:

Chicken 16

And just like that, you have a lovely light jus:

Chicken 17

Plate up!  There’s a lot of flavor going on with the chicken, so I opted for fairly simple sides that I thought would pick the jus up as a serviceable sauce: some mushroom gnocchi sautéed in butter, and some minted spring peas.

Chicken 18

Top with the chicken (I like a mix of white and dark meat, myself), some jus, and a glass of the Château du Whatever, and you’re set to eat!

Chicken 19

So, the verdict?  Pretty good.  The lemon and garlic make for terrific delicate flavor, and as you’d damn well expect with so much butter, the meat was very juicy.  The skin didn’t get quite as crispy as I wanted, though, especially after al the enticing crackly noises – I think maybe I’d start it skin side-down next time and then flip it, because I think maybe it got soggy with all the juices draining down into it.

I don’t think I’d serve it to company, but it’s certainly adequate for me, and I have leftovers for days (and that’s even with being a bad food snob and not saving all that carcass and veggies for chicken stock).  And I will, of course, keep chasing the dream.