Remember yesterday when I posted about making salsa verde with a mortar and pestle? And remember this morning how I linked to a Huffington Post piece I wrote about roasting a chicken? Now it all comes together in this post, a post that begins with a confession: last week, I made a meal on Monday that I loved so much, I made it again on Friday. This is that meal.
Since it’s warmer out, I wanted to move away from my weekly roast chicken dinner, a dinner that usually involves chicken fat-saturated vegetables. It was time to spatchcock, but when you spatchcock there’s no sauce. Which is how I came up with the salsa verde. Then the question was: “What to serve it on?”
That’s when I hit upon a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself.
When you spatchcock, you cut the backbone out of the chicken. What if I put the backbone in a pot of water and made a quick chickeny stock and then used that to cook some cous cous?
As you can see, that’s precisely what I did:
Yes, those are golden raisins, which I sprinkled on the cous cous after covering it with the lid.
As for the chicken, I made a spice rub loosely based (or entirely based?) on one that Pete Wells wrote about in his N.Y.T. Magazine recipe, “Butterflied Chicken with Cracked Spices.”
Essentially, take a small handful of coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and 3 or 4 black peppercorns and put them in a small skillet:
Crank up the heat and toast just until fragrant (you don’t want anything to burn.) Add them to a spice grinder and let them cool a few minutes before grinding:
Mix that spice mixture with an equal amount of coarse kosher salt, then sprinkle generously all over your spatchcocked chicken. Sprinkle with the smoked paprika and allow the spices to sink in, at room temperature, for an hour before cooking:
And that’s pretty much it. I know you’re probably thinking: “Can you give me some more specific instructions? Like a recipe? I’m kind of confused.”
No problem! Here you go. Happy summer chicken cookery.
Spicy Spatchcocked Chicken with Cous Cous Salad & Salsa Verde
1 or 2 whole 4-pound chickens (1 serves 2 to 3 people; 2 serves 4 to 6)
1 whole yellow onion (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
1 stalk celery (optional)
A few black peppercorns + more for later
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1/4 cup kosher salt (plus more, as necessary)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups cous cous (I like Rice Select brand)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 red onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted until fragrant
Olive oil (to taste)
White wine vinegar (to taste)
Salsa verde (follow link)
1. Cut the backbone(s) out of your chicken(s) and add them to a pot. Cover with cold water by several inches and, if you want an extra flavorful stock, add the onion, carrot and celery, plus a few black peppercorns. Bring the water up to an active simmer and simmer for at least an hour, preferably three, until you have a golden stock. Strain and set aside.
2. On a large cookie sheet, lay down a piece of aluminum foil. Flatten your chicken(s) on the sheet (you should hear a cracking sound as you do so) with the inside of the chicken’s cavity down on the sheet.
3. In a small skillet, toast the coriander, fennel and cumin seeds with 3 or 4 black peppercorns until fragrant. Add to a spice grinder, allow to cool and then grind until the mixture is coarse (you don’t want it too powdery). Mix the spice mixture with an equal amount of salt (may need more than 1/4 cup) and then aggressively season the chickens on the sheet (you won’t necessarily use the whole spice mixture.) Allow them to marinate at room temperature for one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 475.
5. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and roast the chicken(s) for 45 minutes, monitoring the temperature as you do. If the chickens get too brown too quickly, lower the temperature to 425. After 45 minutes, use a probe thermometer to take the chicken’s temperature: you want it to register 165 between the thigh and the leg. When that happens, allow the chickens to rest slightly, for 10 minutes or so.
6. Meanwhile, while the chickens are roasting, make your cous cous salad. Simply bring 2 1/2 cups of your chicken stock to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil and then add 2 cups of uncooked cous cous. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the golden raisins on top (this helps them plump up) and cover the pan. A few minutes later it’ll be ready.
7. Fluff the cous cous with a fork, add to a large bowl and toss together with the onion, parsley, almonds and enough olive oil and vinegar to make it flavorful (you have to taste as you go here, adjusting with more salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar as necessary.)
8. To serve, cut up the chicken into legs, thighs, wings, and breast pieces (cut the whole breast into quarters.) Place on a platter and bring to the table along with the cous cous salad and salsa verde for your guests to drizzle on top. Serve with a nice chilled rosé.