This was a fun one, mainly because this chicken recipe introduced me to some simple, new techniques.
I've brined a turkey before with great results, but I've never been sure how a chicken would react to brining. This particular brine was pretty straightforward with a cup of salt, half a cup of sugar, and half a gallon of water. I used stevia instead of sugar, as usual. Remember to always go light on the stevia.
After mixing up the brine, I dunked in the chicken and weighed it down with a measuring cup to keep the whole chicken fully submerged for an hour. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I unconsciously tasted the brining water with my finger after putting in the chicken. Thinking I had just voluntary given myself a bacterial disease, I panicked for about three seconds before realizing that I'd at least die from doing what I love: tasting brining liquid with a raw chicken floating in it. I mean, cooking.
On to the potatoes. Instead of potatoes, I went with sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and are generally better for you than regular potatoes. I love sweet potatoes anyways. They have a lot more character.
After slicing up the potatoes and mixing them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, I laid them across the roasting pan. I have to say, I felt like Remy from Ratatouille when I was laying down the slices of sweet potato. Speaking of which, I should try to make that some time...
So which looks better? Wait, don't answer that.
After draining and patting down the brined chicken, I had to butterfly the chicken. I've never butterflied anything before, so I was looking forward to this.
Turns out it's super easy. It was kind of disappointing how easy it was, but welcome at the same time. All you do is cut out the backbone.
Then you just flip over the chicken and press down on the breasts like you're performing CPR. Easy, peasy. If you're still unsure about how to do it, take a gander at this instructional video. You should now have one, flattened, butterflied chicken.
I've made quite a few compound butters at this point, but this is the first one I've made with dijon mustard thrown into the mix. It was also interesting to see that the recipe called for mashed garlic rather than minced, or finely chopped, garlic.
After working the compound butter under the chicken skin, rubbing down the chicken with some olive oil, and positioning the butterflied chicken on the roasting rack, I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of this chicken's posture. I don't know what's more disturbing--the strangely sheepish character of this chicken, or the fact that when I Google image searched "sheepish," I got this:
Sorry. After I saw this picture, I just couldn't live with the fact that I might be the only one out there suffering from a horridly indelible and baaaaaa'd image.
Right before throwing this in the oven, I took one last look at the chicken with a little bit of doubt and sent it on its way.
The finished product was beautiful, but I couldn't help but laugh one last time at how ridiculous this chicken looked. If you're in a hurry to roast a chicken, consider butterflying it. You can roast the chicken at higher temperatures over shorter periods of time without worrying about the meat being undercooked.
Be honest: how many times have you scrolled between this picture and the"sheepish" picture? If you say a number less than three, you're lying.
Another nice thing about butterflying a chicken is that breaking down the chicken is insanely easy. The dark meat fell off the bone as if it were a deeply braised leg of lamb. The second the meat was exposed, the aroma of thyme and mustard escaped from underneath the skin. The meat tasted great initially, with hints of mustard, a little bit of thyme, and flavorful chunks of garlic, but the meat had a strong aftertaste that felt like gulping down a pint of ocean water. The only solution to this was to just keep eating the chicken and balancing out the saltiness of the chicken with the sweet potatoes.
The skin was the most addictive part of this chicken: crispy, savory, fatty, and unlike the actual meat, perfectly salty.
The chicken breasts nearly burst with juices when I cut into them. The meat near the cavity took on a beautiful color and flavor. These pieces were slightly less salty, but they still carried that same, unfortunate aftertaste.
The sweet potatoes came out just as beautifully as the chicken. Most of the slices came out tender and packed with flavor, but the slices that sat along the borders of the roasting pan came out with an even tastier crispy char. The sweet potatoes were glazed with drippings and had moments of spicy mustard and thyme. Several pieces even had a tiny, or should I say a poultry, aftertaste of salty chicken.
Overall, aside from the saltiness, this chicken was great. Though this recipe required a bit more effort than usual, and the payoff might be questionable, this chicken was very much worth trying. I might have to give this one another go at some point with less salt in the brining liquid or a shorter brining time. More than anything, though, I loved tasting and learning about butterflied chickens.
Good work, America's Test Kitchen. I don't know if this stands up to some of the other chickens I've roasted to date, but ATK, you put up a hell of a fight.