what i did on my summer vacation: day 3

a month or so ago a friend of mine casually threw out the word "spatchcock" so i had to find out what it meant, and once i found that out, how to do it. i thought it would be far more difficult than it was, but there are many instructional videos online to help visualise the whole thing.

basically, spatchcocking is like breaking a chicken's rib cage open as though to perform open heart surgery, or to cook it quickly and juicily (not a word, but i don't care). you slice up the back along the spine (you can cut on both sides of the spine and save it for soup, but as a longstanding fan of the parson's nose, i only cut one side and left the back attached) and break it open, flattening as much as possible. cut deep gashes between the body of the bird and each thigh, to aid in flattening and in getting heat deep into the slow-cooking joints. do the same between the body and the wings. you can also hack off the end of the drumsticks, but i didn't bother.

the recipe i found online (jacques pepin's - has a great instructional video too) asked for dijon, but i had been sadly outvoted at the store so we only had "kid mustard" (aka french's yellow stuff). still, it worked out quite well, and knowing that "kid mustard" was all over it made it easier for the kid to get over the fact that it didn't look like "normal chicken."

i also roasted some beets alongside, and steamed the beet greens (is there anything more tasty than steamed beet greens with butter, salt, and pepper? i think not, but my family disagrees, so all the more for me).

the online recipes also promised "roast chicken in 30 minutes." hmm.

spatchcock day had turned out to be our driving day (we were supposed to do our driving errands the following day, but i discovered to my horror that i'd forgotten to bring yeast and we were almost out of bread), and that included going to the farm for more lovely vegetables, into fenelon for lunch and water and antiquing (and bumping into kerry - funny how whenever i bump into someone far from home, it's a friend of erin's) and going to highland cinemas in kinmount for a movie. we saw harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2 - about as scary as the kid could handle, while being the most appropriate offering for someone his age - and great for people who are into that sort of thing, but lacking in any kind of significant character development, burdened by cgi and a "shocking twist" of the sort you could see coming hours away. but i know the fans love it, so i am clearly not the target market.

more importantly, highland cinemas has an amazing store of cinema history - artifacts from old cinemas all across north america, including a huge number of projectors along with posters, movie ads and magazines, and decor items (each of 5 screening rooms has a different vintage theme). that alone was well worth the trip.

anyway, because we were out all day i was hoping have a quick dinner - initially driving day was also hamburger day, but our schedule got mixed up due to the bread thing - and chicken was scheduled to be on two separate nights and i didn't want them to be too close together. so, we tested the "30 minute" theory and found it wanting. that 30 minutes didn't include the hacking, making the mustard crust, or 5 minutes of stove-top browning, or the resting before serving.

i didn't brown on the stove before roasting (due to a shortage of cottage cookery equipment, always a bit of a challenge), so i left in the oven a little longer and it was lovely, tasty, and juicy. from actual start to the table was just over an hour.

mustard-crusted spatchcocked chicken with beets

get the oven really hot (450f)

toss a few beets into boiling water for 30 minutes while you hack that chicken up per directions above (or watch a video)

5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbs olive oil
a good squirt french's yellow "kid" mustard
a good splash of white wine

coat the open inside with the mustard mixture, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.

place open side down in baking dish.

coat skin with remaining mustard mixture and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

stick in the very hot oven for 45 minutes.

take out and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

meanwhile the timer for the beets will have gone while the chicken was still in the oven. dowse them in cold water till they're cold enough to peel, then peel and cut into quarters, toss with chicken fat, and roast alongside the chicken till the chicken is done.

the greens can be cooked after the chicken comes out of the oven, while it's resting. trim the stems, wash thouroughly, and then toss in boiling water for 10 minutes (yes, longer than you expect, but they're sturdy).

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