Ass-backward Spatchcocked Chicken

Spatchcocking means cutting the back out of a chicken, spreading it open and cooking it, sometimes under a brick. Spatchcocked birds can also roasted, grilled, or cooked on the stovetop. Heat penetrates the flattened flesh faster, and a whole chicken can be done more quickly.

The back itself is usually discarded (or saved for stock, if you’re conscientious). But if you’re married to an Italian American, especially one whose Sicilian nonna showed her how to wring every morsel of edible goodness from a chicken, you want to cook that back.

So, when I decided to deviate from my usual approach to roasting chicken, I opted to split the birds down the front. It’s actually easier than cutting out the back, requiring a single knife stroke through the keel bone. I call it the ass-backward spatchcock. Put the chicken on a firm surface, breast facing you and neck down. Cut from the opening of the cavity down through the neck, keeping the keel bone close to the cut. Pull the chicken apart and flatten it out.

Once the bird’s been cut, I salt it (roughly 2-3 tablespoons for 3-4 pound chicken; should look like a light snowfall) and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I roast mine in a big cast iron skillet, almost always on a bed of vegetables that soak up the juices. Onion and cabbage works, potatoes are unbelievably good, but almost anything will taste great. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in the skillet, add the vegetables, and put the chicken on top.

Roast at 350F for about an hour or until the skin is nicely browned, the joints are loose, and the juices that run out when you stick in knife in next to the thigh are clear. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting it up.