Call it my Aries nature, but I sometimes have this intense urge that rises up inside me to do highly risky, questionable, and frankly, insane things. Like, say, get a full-scale image of my profile tattooed to the side of my face.* Or to pick up and enter the Race Across America endurance event.** Or to butterfly a chicken without kitchen shears. Most of the time, that other tiny part of my brain that houses practicality kicks in and takes me down a notch. But there are some times when the urge is too strong, when before I can think twice, I find myself in the kitchen armed with a dull chef's knife and gripping a pale, raw chicken in a humiliating position on the counter.
But I didn't mean to write to you about my neuroses. What I meant to do was to thank you for introducing me to the Splendid Table podcast and tell you about a recipe I found there in case you missed it, despite it almost directly leading to me very nearly losing a finger or two.
On your recommendation, I started downloading the podcast a few months ago and was immediately hooked on one Lynne Rossetto Kaspar (even her name conjures up images of canned peaches and gingham, runner beans and noodle casseroles). Listening to Lynne's soothing voice as she interviews an expert about the steel used for an ancient knife-making technique, or cooks lunch with Diana Kennedy in her home kitchen in Mexico became my routine on my sleepy trip to school in the early morning, staving off any anxiety or sleep-deprived crowded-#4 train grumpiness. I look forward to the weekly visit from Jane and Michael Stern, roadfoodies extraordinaire, as they describe in excruciating detail their latest fried/glazed/cheese-smothered local discovery. Doesn't it always sound like Jane is licking her chops when she talks? I worry about their cholesterol, but I always enjoy the vicarious thrill. And then there's the few random tips and tricks Lynne throws in between segments. It was one of these that got stuck in my craw and wouldn't go until I gave in, bought a chicken and set to work, shears or no.
The premise is simple. Lynne says to take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo, throw in some pitted dried prunes, a dash of vinegar, a load of garlic, and some sugar. Whirr it all together in a food processor and you have a hot, sweet, acidic, garlicy sauce for slathering. Then, Lynn says, take your chicken, cut out the backbone and flatten it for optimal roasting. Spread the sauce all over, and roast in the oven at 350 (I think I'd prefer a higher temp, say, 400). Simple, quick, and when the sauce cooks and caramelizes into a sweet, sticky, crispy, gooey, spicy glaze, you'll want to lick your fingers with glee. That is, if you have any fingers left after removing the backbone.
This recipe is awesome. It's easy, yummy, and I think I'm sold on butterflying as the best way to cook a chicken without some parts drying out and some being underdone. But for lord's sake don't let the demons of spontaneity win out over sanity. Be sure you have a pair of shears (or some really stellar knife skills and a one hell of a sharp knife) before you attempt this. The combination of slippery chicken skin, stubborn bones, and delicate fingers, is nothing to take lightly. I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say neither the chicken nor I went down without a fight.
The side bar/post script note to this is that shortly after I made this (served with roasted sweet potato wedges and a salad), I slathered the leftover sauce on some boneless chicken thighs, roasted those at 500 for a hot minute, sliced them up and served them as a stellar taco filling. Delicious. I think this rub would work for any meat you plan to throw on the barbie this summer: ribs, pork chops, even maybe some shrimp skewers? I dunno--try it.
Thank you, Boo. Thank you, Lynne. Thank you, instructional videos on youtube. This chipotle-fruit rub is definitely becoming a staple in my kitchen. As are a sturdy pair of shears. I'll save the dare-deviling for the stage.
*Don't worry, mom, I would never.
**Okay, not this either. I don't enjoy sweating. Or exercise.
Lynne Rossetto Kaspar's Chipotle-fruit Puree (an approximation by the Mouse)
Listen to Lynne's recipe here!
1 small can of chipotle peppers in adobo
1 handful of pitted dried prunes
1-2 Tablespoons white or cider vinegar
5 cloves of garlic
1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 3-4 lb chicken, though boneless chicken thighs, drumsticks, or pork chops would work beautifully (cooking temp and times will vary)
Puree first 4 ingredients in food processor until smooth but chunky. All amounts are estimates--adjust to suit your taste. This will make more than enough for one chicken. It keeps well in fridge until you want to use the rest. With shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken. Flip it over and with the heel of your hand, press down until you hear a crack and the chicken lies flat. Salt and pepper, and spread generously with puree. Roast in pre-heated oven at 350 for 50 minutes, or if you're me, at 400 for 40 minutes, basting every so often. For a built-in side dish, slice wedges of sweet potato, toss with olive oil and salt and lay chicken on top to roast.