Spatchcocked

This technique tends to draw giggles and silly voices from people who don’t know what it is. This technique is quite simple and brings great results. I prefer it over trussing and roasting.

All you have to do to spatchcock a bird is to remove the backbone and the sternum and lay the bird out flat.

Simply said, now how?

Take a good pair of poultry shears and a whole bird. On either side of the triangle bit at the end of the spine, start cutting along the backbone. Be careful not to cut into the thigh or breast meat. The hip joints will be the hardest but cut between the joints rather than cutting the actual bone. Although the bones are hollow and easy to cut, be careful. If you are doing a turkey, you will need some strength as simply by being larger, they take more muscle that say a quail.

One the backbone has been removed, open the bird up and lay it flat, inside up, skin side down. Now you are looking at the inside of the bird. Using a good sharp boning knife or chef’s knife, make a slit in the cartilage between the breasts. Try to bend the bird backwards and the breastbone will literally pop loose. Then all you do is pull it out.

There will still be rib bones attached but you want those to still be there. Rinse the bird, lay it out flat. With the backbone gone and the breast bone removed, the bird should lay out nice and flat.

Season the inside of the bird, flip it over. Pat the skin dry, rub a small amount of oil over the skin and then rub it well with seasonings. My favorite seasonings are salt, pepper, Montreal steak or chicken seasoning, and paprika. Paprika will help make the skin crispy.

The seasoned bird can now be cooked either on a grill or roasted in the oven on a rack over mirepoix (50% diced onions, 25% diced carrots, 25% diced celery) at 375 Degrees F.

If grilling you will want to use the indirect method and keep the heat between 350-375 degrees F and no direct flames under the bird. Grill it skin side up for about 2 hours, keep checking so the bird does not burn.

Either in the oven or on the grill, cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. So yes, you will need a real food thermometer that is correctly calibrated.

The bird is easily carved after it is cooked. Let the bird rest for about 20 minutes after removing it from the grill or the oven. Use a sharp knife to separate the leg and thigh and then to cut the breasts in half unless you want to leave them whole.

During this time, if you roasted the bird in the oven you can make some pan gravy from the mirepoix and drippings. If you grilled it, have some nice condiments

Heirloom Tomato Salad

or salsas to serve with the bird.

The spatchcocking technique can be used with anything that flies; squab, quail, partridge, grouse, duck, chicken, Cornish hens or even turkey if you are strong enough to wrestle with removing the breastbone and laying the bird out flat. (Yes, I know turkeys do not fly but hopefully you get the idea.)

This 18th century technique probably prompted giggles from the first time it was named. I have no idea where the name came from but the technique is a rather nice way to cook a bird.

Try it, let me know how it works out for you!

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“. . . Just want to be a cook”

“I just want to be a normal person, hell, screw normal people, I really just want to be a cook.”

Anthony Bourdain
“Out of the Fire and into the Pan” Travel Channel

Being a cook is truly a unique lifestyle. The lifestyle Anthony talks about in his book Kitchen Confidential is one full of alcohol, drugs and hard living. His almost comic descriptions of the lifestyle do represent some of the lives encountered while working in a professional kitchen.

Last week one of my students asked me how it felt to be the only lady of the bunch, referring to the all male faculty where I teach culinary school. My response was, “It has always been that way, I really don’t think of myself as the only female, but as part of a team.” Culinary folks are a tight bunch; competitive, but close to their teammates.

Tony describes the drinking games and goading between so-called rival  kitchens that take place in the wee hours of the morning. Certainly these must contribute to some kind of bonding between workers. Cooking is a tough job, you feel it through your bones, your entire being gets caught up in the work of serious cooking. If that doesn’t happen for you while you cook, you are not in the right place.

It becomes like a dance between cooks, reaching, passing, plating, presenting; you know what your neighboring cook is going to do next by movements and you’ve seen each dish played out a thousand times. You know how to move in a hot, noisy, very busy kitchen, observation tells you most of what you need to know while you listen carefully for the next “Order In! or “Pick Up!” call to see if it is for your station or not. Cooking like this is a bonding experience all in itself. The line-cook cowboys.

The fire, the steam, the sizzle, the splatter, the heat, the aromas all become addicting. Like every other addiction, it can also destroy you. Obesity, alcoholism, drug addictions, divorce, gambling. . .wicked vices you have to be aware of and smarter than in order to survive.

People can talk about how good a chef/cook they are but in reality it is about what you can do. Male or female. Females are at a disadvantage , always have been. A female really needs to know what she is doing and be strong enough to carry it through. There will always be  male pigs around, the industry attracts them like flies. So as a female, you learn real fast how to take care of yourself. And how be really, really good at what you do, not to whine or cry or get tired. At least in front of them.

Because of the lack of “bar bonding” with the crews I worked with, present co-workers included, there is a parameter where our relationships end. That for me is once I am in the car, I am on my own time and do not need to prove myself at any “thirsty Thursday” events.

My bones can feel the work, the long hours on concrete floors over hot ranges and ovens. Being a line cook is for younger people. It is great fun for a while, but not forever. The food industry has so many other things you can do and still play with food. You just don’t have to sweat as much or work at a constant break-neck speed. I did that once and do not have to prove my ability anymore. Frankly, I’m too old for that. As I mentioned earlier, line cooking is for the younger generation, that cowboy/pirate breed with good knife skills.

I see so many young kids come into my office and say “I want to be a chef” and be so timid, shy and unsure of themselves. There is not a chance in hell they will ever make it in any kitchen. Not all of them have the capability of becoming a chef. Some are only cut out to be cooks at best. But who am I to squash a dream?

So I train them, test them and send them out into the world armed with the safe knowledge and experiences from culinary school. Some have been part of a competition team or competed on their own.  They get overblown egos from those kind of experiences. The world eats them alive once the get out there and then again, some survive. And a few end up doing very well.

A cooks life is not for everyone. To survive, you need to be aware of and stronger than the temptations and vices laid out before you in irresistible ways. Food is a temptation, it is seductive, it is addicting. You have to know that going in and perhaps most of all this is what draws us to food in the first place. The temptations, the seductiveness and the addictions; the challenge is far from being a normal person.

That’s the last thing I would call Anthony Bourdain.