Yesterday we took the time to prepare our spatchcocked roast chicken by putting it in a dry brine. By now all of the wonderful flavors from the garlic, lemon zest, thyme, and rosemary have had an opportunity to permeate the bird. Our goal tonight will be to roast the bird and to grill our asparagus. How should we proceed?
Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to roasting poultry–the low and slow people, and the fast and hot people. I happen to come from the second group.
Now, I am aware that there are real upsides to the low and slow approach. Almost all professional kitchens have gone the sous vide approach. The page that I have linked illustrates all of the reasons why low and slow has large numbers of followers–it is a low risk, high consistency approach. If you follow Heston Blumenthal (I do), Blumenthal attempts to cook almost everything according to the low and slow approach. Further, if you happen to follow the Bulletproof Diet, low and slow prevents the development of oxidants on the surface of your food. Oxidants are definitively not good for you; barbecue is indeed not healthy. The low and slow approach seems to win hands down.
And yet, according to my own judgments, low and slow cooking generates less tasty results.
My reasoning is simple: high heats change simple sugars (such as are found in chicken skin) into caramels. And I think caramelization is delicious.
Further, I also happen to like it when food has differing degrees of doneness. My experience of eating a piece of salmon, cooked in sous vide, is that I am eating salmon jello. The absolute uniformity of texture, and doneness does not strike me as being desirable; it strikes me as a tad unnatural. I really prefer a piece of salmon that is less uniform (and perhaps even a little overdone).
Getting Ready to Roast
Accordingly, I am going to encourage you to roast your chicken in an oven at a setting that is as high as your oven can reasonably go. In my instance, that is 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It is possible that for you that is 450, or perhaps only 400. I am going to have you roast the chicken sitting on a rack (to get it up off of the base of the roasting pan), and I will not have you turning the chicken at all during roasting.
In other words, preheat your oven. Set up your pan (you probably want to line it with foil to make cleanup easier). Put your rack into the pan. Put your chicken on the rack. Put your chicken in the oven, and leave it alone for about 45 minutes.
Now, as I suggested above, this is a slightly risky operation. First of all, all ovens vary. Some ovens are hotter. Other ovens are cooler. Equally, chickens vary. Some are fat, while others are thin. Some are long, while others are almost round. True, our spatchcocking the chicken will help it cook uniformly, but there is no doubt that this is not an exact science.
Time and Temperature
Accordingly, you are going to have to keep an eye on your chicken. If your chicken begins to blacken, you are going to need to intervene. In the alternative, your chicken may make very little progress. The only way that you are going to know where you are is if you are prepared to step in and periodically check your chicken using a fast read thermometer.
You will want to pull your chicken when the breast reads 160 to 165 (165 is considered safe; the temperature of your chicken will continue to rise once you have removed it from the oven, so you can pull the chicken at 160 if you like).
Resting Your Bird
Once your chicken has been pulled out of the oven, you will want to transfer it to a cutting board and cover it with sheets of foil (shiny side in) to allow the meat to rest. This will allow the chicken to reabsorb some of its juices and will make it an incredibly more pleasant food to eat. Note that it is useful to have the bird on a cutting board that has a gutter carved into it, in order to control for the excess juices that may flow from the bird.
Carving Your Bird
The goal of carving your bird is to remove the breasts, arms, and legs, from the chest cavity. While I have taken photos of my approach, I think you might also consider looking at Jamie Oliver’s approach to slicing a chicken.
Grilled asparagus is one of the great pleasures of late spring and early summer. The preparation here is really quite simple: get one bunch of asparagus (medium sized) and trim off the bases of the spears. Coat your asparagus liberally in olive oil, and then salt and pepper. Put your asparagus on a gas grill set at the high mark (I cook these on direct heat, at a super hot setting, for 3-5 minutes). Turn your asparagus at the 2-minute mark to cook both sides. Remove the asparagus to a plate, and top with parmesan cheese (to taste).
Nothing could be simpler!