Spatchcocking

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I haven’t spatchcocked a chicken in almost 3 years. I know this because I discovered an old post on one from early in my blogging career. It was deleted because, like so many others, the photography was dreadful in those “early” days. But there’s also another reason.

Before, when I made a spatchcock chicken, I used a wonderful pan called a mattone. It was a flat-bottomed shallow clay pan with a glazed interio and a heavy flat lid. It was perfect for a small spatchcock chicken or poussin.

Sadly, though, the bottom cracked, and I can’t find a mattone anywhere online.

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But I found a really heavy press with a handle that I thought would solve the problem.

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Even after removing the chicken’s backbone, which is the whole point of a spatchcocked chicken, it can pop up instead of staying flat. This defeats the whole concept of cooking a uniformly thick chicken. It needs to lay flat – on its own or with weight on top.

So I set out to try out my new gadget. To spatchcock a chicken, get a good, whole chicken. Then to remove the backbone, use really good poultry shears. You first have to figure out what side of the chicken is the back, because I made that mistake once. The best hint is the little tail sticking out!

Cut up one side of the tail along the backbone, then do the other side.

Turn the chicken over and flatten it with your hands. You’ll hear a little crunch.

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There are many different ways to cook a spatchcock chicken, like outside on the grill, on the stove, or in the oven. Outside was out for me, with a heat index of 105 degrees. So I decided to do the browning on the stove, and finish the cooking in the oven at 350 degrees. 325 degrees would also work.

I first seasoned the chicken well, after patting the top and bottom dry with paper towels. I decided on duck fat, and melted some in my large flat griddle, and added some freshly cut thyme and rosemary.

I turned the heat to the highest setting and when the duck fat was hot I added the spatchcock chicken. Then I used my lid. Ingenious!
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After about 4-5 minutes, I turned the chicken over, replaced the lid, and browned the other side.

Then I put the griddle in the oven, and used a probe. I removed the chicken from the griddle after 155 degrees was reached, according to the probe and placed it to cool on a cutting board. See? Nice and flat!
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Using a large knife or cleaver, cut the chicken into pieces and serve.

You can see that the chicken is juicy, but also nicely browned.

I served it with a rosé, and it was a perfect combination. Although, I’ll probably not purchase this rosé again. It was a bit too sweet.
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note: I really love my oval Le Creuset skillet, found here on the Williams-Sonoma website. Sometimes you just need oval, and not round!

Heavenly Food

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My life revolves around food, sadly. But that’s just the way it is. I get excited in the morning when I decide to make myself a special breakfast, like an omelette with mushrooms and Fontina. It’s a simple pleasure. I get excited about a fine-dining experience at a restaurant. That’s an extravagant pleasure. Or a picnic in perfect weather, no bugs, with cheese,charcuterie, bread and wine. That’s an experiential pleasure, because it’s so much bigger than the food itself.

And I love to discover new foods. Typically when we travel, my husband and I stay at hotels, so my food discoveries are at restaurants. That’s how I learned about samphire, in London, served alongside seared scallops. Such a great discovery!

But because of restaurant dining, I miss out going to a local market, and cooking all the wonderful and fresh ingredients. I don’t complain, ever, because I also enjoy the break from being in the kitchen.

However, when I was visiting Stéphane in France, it was quite the opposite for me, because I was actually there to shop and cook with him. And I got to learn about some of the seasonally local foods and experience them. It was a food immersion of sorts, and there were plenty of foods with which I had no previous experience.

One of these was fresh fava beans. Now many of you who live where I don’t already have eaten these, but I can’t buy them fresh. I’ve only cooked them dry. So I was very excited when Stéphane suggested that we get some fresh favas to munch on before lunch.

He showed us how to peel the fava beans, then dip them in a little salt and devour. It was a wonderful way to spend a little time before lunch, especially sitting outside in France!

Another lovely experience my daughter and I enjoyed for the first time were les petits Bigorneaux. Essentially sea snails that are boiled, then served at room temperature. This was yet another fun appetizer that we enjoyed sitting outside in the sun, pulling the stubborn snails out of their shells.

I could swear that some of my snails were still alive, because they would pull away from my toothpick. But Stéphane assured me that they were fully cooked, and had died for our enjoyment.

I always remember my French mother telling me about langoustines. I was probably a little appalled about the part where you suck the innards out of the langoustine head after you ate the body. And maybe perhaps for that reason I avoided them over the years. Until now.

They’re more like a mini lobster than a shrimp. You could try to get the meat out of the claws, but the claws are so small that it would take all day.

For this beautiful lunch, Stephane made a fresh chive aioli to go with the chilled langoustines, and it was a perfect pairing. I hope Stéphane didn’t notice that neither my daughter or I sucked out the head meat.

Before I left for France Stéphane asked me if I’d enjoy making a foie gras terrine. I think my heart skipped a beat. I’ve sautéd foie gras, I’ve made paté de foie, and I’ve made coarser meat terrines, but a foie gras terrine??!!! Mais oui! I was so excited.

It’s a family recipe and I will not reveal it. I was probably talking too much in any case to pay attention. But you essentially smother the lobes of foie gras with a spice mixture, and then press them into a terrine.

After an Armagnac bath, the terrine is sealed with pastry and cooked slowly in a bain marie. Then it chills for four days. Stéphane served it to us with Sauterne, and toasted slices of Briochette, which is a cross between brioche and French bread. It was certainly a gourmet highlight of our trip.

Then there were new mushrooms to experience – cèps, to be exact. They’re large and meaty. Stéphane sautéed potatoes in duck fat for our meal, then added the cooked cèps. Stéphane then served the potato-cèps mixture, seasoned with a walnut parsley pesto of sorts, along with duck confit for us, and eggs for my daughter. I was very happy to discover a new mushroom!

Lastly, the cheese. There was one spectacular cheese that was a standout for me.

It’s called Saint Felicien, made from raw cows’ milk in the Rhones-Alpes region of France. It was a lovely discovery, and along with the Camembert and Epoisses that Stéphane also served, went really well with the black cherry jam. The cherries in the jam are the size of blueberries. Another wonderful discovery that I should have brought home with me if I had been thinking.

There was so much more I experienced for the first time during my visit with Stéphane, but these were the standouts for me.