I’ve had a lot of pizza since I started the Pie of the Week project. While it has been rewarding and I’m nowhere near done with the project, I wanted to do something more creative with the Roccbox pizza oven. I also needed to clear space in the freezer for lambs headed to the butcher this week. There was a whole chicken from Jim and Peggy Metz at the Culver Farmers’ Market in there, taking up space. So, I decided to see how a spatchcock chicken would turn out in the Roccbox.
I hear you ask, “what is a spatchcock chicken?” A spatchcock chicken (or any poultry – try doing spatchcock turkey next thanksgiving. You’re welcome.) is simply a whole chicken with the backbone cut out. This lets you flatten the bird, so it cooks more evenly and quickly, while retaining its identity as a bird. It’s simple to do, and looks impressive. It also allows the thing to fit into the Roccbox – impossible with a whole chicken.
It is also easy to split a spatchcock chicken in half, either before or after cooking. This is what you usually get when you get a half chicken at a bbq place or fundraising dinner. In addition to the visual appeal and the ease, spatchcock chickens cook quite fast, allowing for a nice crusty skin, while retaining a juicy, tender interior.
I made a spicy, smokey marinade with simple pantry ingredients. The most exotic being part of a can of chipotles in adobo. They’re a great flavor enhancer, available at even tiny grocery stores, in the Mexican section of the ethnic foods aisle.
The Roccbox was perfect for this kind of cooking. The fact that it is hotter at the back than at the opening became a major advantage: the slower-cooking legs and thighs were finished at the same time as the quicker-cooking breast. Nothing either overcooked or raw!
Spicy Smokey Spatchcock Chicken
Spatchcocking is a great way to cook a whole chicken fast, with little effort. It's harder to describe than it is to do. Roasting it in a portable pizza oven extends the utility of the oven, and gives a moist interior and juicy interior that would be hard to match.
I'd try maybe using a grill. But if you want to try a standard oven, I'd suggest starting hot and finishing cooler. Start roasting in about a 450 degree oven, then after about 20 minutes, turn it down to 375 or so, and cook until it's done (165 F internally, probably another 30-50 minutes, depending on the chicken).
Take two or three chipotles from the can of chipotles in Adobo and mince them fine. Place in a bowl.
Add about 2 Tbsp of the adobo sauce, along with all of the other ingredients (other than the chicken), and stir to blend.
Blend in enough water to make a thick but spreadable paste. Set aside.
Spatchcock the Chicken
This is far easier to do than to describe. Like playing Euchre. Just give it a try if you haven't. Brave. No fear!
Some people prefer to use kitchen shears or heavy scissors for this. I find a sharp knife easier and faster, as well as easier to clean. Try it both ways, and you do you.
Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board, with the legs facing you.
Locate the "parson's nose," a small triangle of fat and connective tissue at the base of the chicken's tail. Start on one side of the parson's nose, and cut down the side of the backbone, all the way through to the cavity, up the entire length of the bird.
Repeat this on the other side of the parson's nose, completely removing the backbone. Yes, your chicken is now spineless!
Reserve the backbone for making stock at some other time (freeze it in a chicken parts bag if stock-making day isn't soon).
Flip the chicken over, and press with your hand on the center of the breast to flatten it out. You will probably hear the breast bone crack - it doesn't take much pressure.
Marinate the Chicken
Rub the chicken all over, both sides, with a thick layer of marinade.
Place the marinated chicken in a container. Seal it tightly, and place it in the refrigerator overnight, or at least eight hours
Cook the Chicken
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, and place it breast-side-up in a cast iron skillet. The legs should be on the side opposite the handle, with the neck end closest to the handle.
Arrange the legs, thighs, and wings so the chicken sits as flat as possible. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil. Let it set at room temperature while the pizza oven preheats.
Preheat the pizza oven on high for about 45 minutes. The stone should reach around 900-960 degrees F.
Put the covered chicken in the oven. The leg/thigh end should be near the back of the oven, but not right up against the flame. The breast/neck end will be just an inch or so inside the opening, with the skillet handle sticking out the front of the oven.
Roast on high for about 20 minutes, then check to see if the meat is done. It should reach an internal temperature of at least 163 degrees. It'll keep cooking after removal, so you don't need to get all the way to 165 before removing, but you do need to be close enough that it will get there! Mine took about 30 minutes.
Remove the foil. Turn the heat down to low, and return the uncovered skillet to the oven. Watch very closely as the skin crisps and darkens. It will only take about two minutes, and you'll likely need to turn the handle side-to-side to ensure it crisps evenly.
When the skin is crispy, remove from the oven, and loosely drape the foil back over the bird. Be careful - the skillet, chicken, and splattering oil are all crazy hot!
Let the chicken rest at room temperature for about 14 minutes while you finish up side dishes and move all of the drooling onlookers to a table.
You can easily split the chicken in half, giving each person one. Or quarter it, so everyone can get either a breast or a leg/thigh quarter. Or just have folks pull it apart - it'll be so tender it'll just fall apart easily.