Even if you’re no spring chicken, you can make tender, delicious chicken at home. Bearing in mind, of course, that the wrong recipe and improper technique will render even the choicest of birds tasteless and dry.
At Terra Cotta in Koreatown, chef Danny Ye spatchcocks his organic, free-range birds before roasting them to perfection in hot cast-iron skillets. Ye starts by brining his birds overnight. After that, the trick to achieving a crisp, crackly blistering skin is to pat down your chicken and air-dry it completely before searing it in a well-oiled skillet. Keep in mind that more skin-to-skillet contact will maximize the Maillard reaction, so place a heavy weight on your poultry to flatten it, then transfer it to the oven. The chicken shouldn’t take more than an hour to roast. Ye says the beauty of this butterflied bird is it will come right off the pan when cooked all the way through.
Note: Terra Cotta closes this Sunday but is expected to reopen later this month under a new name. Danny Ye will stay on as chef, so you should still be able to enjoy his butterflied chicken. In the meantime, try your hand at his recipe for spatchcocked chicken with crispy potatoes and habanero coleslaw below.
SPATCHCOCKED CHICKEN WITH CRISPY POTATOES AND HABANERO SLAW
Ye says to source the best chicken you can find because “a happy bird is a tasty bird.” A 2- to 3-pound bird typically feeds two but any size will do, depending on how many people you intend to feed.
Yield: Serves 2
A 2–3 lbs organic, free-range chicken
1 cup Three Crabs fish sauce
1 cup water
3 Meyer lemons, halved
5 tbsps canola oil
Crispy Potatoes (recipe follows)
Habanero Slaw (recipe follows)
A brick or some other oven-proof weight wrapped in foil
Foil, for wrapping
Prepare the marinade: Combine the fish sauce and water in a large non-reactive bowl or a container. Squeeze the lemon juice into the marinade and add the citrus.
Spatchcock the chicken: Flip your bird breast-side down. Using a good pair of kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the chicken’s spine. Remove and discard the spine.
Marinate the chicken: Transfer the chicken to the marinade and soak overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours.
Cure the chicken: An hour or two before serving, remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry using paper towels. Transfer the chicken to a pan or a bowl and rest it in the driest area of your refrigerator for an hour or two.
Preheat the skillet: Place a cast-iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed sauté or oven pan in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Roast the chicken: Rub the chicken with 1 tablespoon of canola oil.
Remove the skillet from the oven once the temperature reaches 400ºF. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of canola oil to the hot skillet. Now spread the chicken, skin-side down, in the skillet. Try to lay your bird as flat as possible to maximize the amount of skin-to-skillet contact. Place the foil-wrapped brick or weight over the chicken, using it to keep your bird pressed down. Transfer the chicken to the oven.
Roast the chicken for about 50 to 55 minutes if using a 2- to 3-pound bird. Once done, the chicken should come slide cleanly off the pan without sticking. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
To serve: Transfer the chicken to a large plate and serve with Crispy Potatoes and Habanero Slaw.
Ye prefers marble or fingerling potatoes to prepare this recipe. You’ll need about 1 pound of potatoes per two people, or more if you prefer.
Yield: Makes 2 servings
1 lb of marble or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup of salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Duck fat, clarified butter, soybean or extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
Boil the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a pot. Add a ½-cup of salt and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a low simmer. Boil the potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until they’re tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife. Drain and let cool.
Smash the potatoes: Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, press down on each one slowly with the palm of your hand. Don’t press down all the way; the potatoes should remain intact. You should have one solid, smashed piece, not a bunch of broken bits.
Fry the potatoes: Heat a ¼- to ½-inch of oil, clarified butter or duck fat in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Shallow fry the smashed potatoes and then transfer them to a paper towel-lined tray. Toss the potatoes with salt, pepper and chopped parsley.
⅓ of a head of green cabbage
1 habanero or any other preferred chile, julienned
¼ of a bunch of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Using a Japanese mandolin, shred ⅓ of a head of cabbage into thin slivers. Julienne the habanero or any other other chile, as preferred.
Toss the shredded cabbage, julienned habanero and cilantro in a bowl with the lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Photo of hens (top), courtesy of Autonomy Farms