Sheet Pan Meal: Herbed Spatchcocked Chicken
By Evan Kleiman
These days it’s hard to find smaller broiler chickens. I prefer them to the giant four-pound roasters that seem to be everywhere. The meat is more tender on the smaller chickens and they cook faster when they lay flat. Ask the butcher (even at the supermarket) to cut out the backbone for you. Take the backbone home and use it for broth. Or just do it yourself. In Italy I watched home cooks use scissors for so much in the kitchen including this. Now I have a dedicated scissors just for the kitchen. If you like tools you can spring for a poultry shears which is a sturdier scissors. Either way you just set the chicken breast down on a cutting board or a towel and cut all the way down on either side of the backbone. That’s all there is to it! Spatchcock is a funny word but it simply means a bird that’s had the backbone removed so it opens like a book. All that surface contact with the pan means faster cooking and more surface available for seasoning the bird and flavoring.
My favorite combination is with potatoes, onions and carrots with lots of lemon and garlic and either rosemary or oregano. If you use fresh rosemary don’t bother to chop it. Simply rub the chicken all over with the herb then add the sprigs to the bowl with the veggies. As for oregano here’s your opportunity to introduce yourself to the aromatic pleasure of Greek or Italian oregano dried on the branch. You can find it in many gourmet food shops or Greek/Italian delis. At first it seems cumbersome to use. It comes in a plastic bag that holds the whole bunch of herbs instead of a convenient little bottle. But open that bag and smell a different experience. I usually open the bag and hold it over a bowl and gently roll the bunch in my hands. The leaves will start to detach from the bunch and pour into the bowl. After I have what I need I close the bag again. If the bag breaks, I put the bunch into a zip lock bag. Then I use what detached, keeping any extra in a small container. What’s interesting about this kind of oregano is it’s aromatic without being pungent. You can use a lot.
1 whole chicken, 3.5 lbs. if available
1 large lemon, ends trimmed, cut in half
3 medium to large yellow potatoes, washed and cut into 4-6 pieces, depending on size
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bulb of garlic, root end sliced and cloves separated but unpeeled
2 large or 3 small fresh rosemary sprigs or 1-2 tablespoons Greek oregano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Diamond Crystal Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
After you remove the backbone turn the chicken so the skin side is up and press down hard on the breast bone to flatten the bird.
Line the sheet pan with parchment paper.
Cut the lemon in half vertically. Squeeze one half over the chicken rubbing the lemon on the flesh and skin side. Cut both halves of the lemon (included the one you just squeezed) into slices. If you are using rosemary rub it all over the bird. If using oregano rub a teaspoon or so over it. Drizzle a bit of olive oil all over the bird and rub it in, then do the same with salt and pepper.
Put the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic cloves and lemon slices in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste and add a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Toss to mix.
Lay the seasoned vegetables on the lined sheet pan. Lay the seasoned bird on top of the vegetables skin side up. If you prefer you may arrange the veggies around the bird so more get browned. Personally I love when some of the veggies are cooked in the chicken juices.
Place in oven to bake until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear when you pierce a thigh, about 40 to 50 minutes. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving.
Serve the chicken and vegetables on a platter bathed in the extra juices. Serves 4.