Spatchcock, aka butterflied chickens, are a popular and easy way to roast or grill chicken, especially since Trader Joe’s started selling them about five years ago. Their version comes in a delicious lemony rosemary marinade with simple instructions to cook it perfectly in an hour’s time. The cutting technique involved (which Trader Joe’s does for you) uses kitchen shears to remove the backbone so that the chicken can be laid out flat, allowing for even cooking and the entire surface to have crispy skin if roasting or a well-charred surface if you’re grilling. The only disadvantage, in my opinion, is that the flavors and juices from the backbone are lost (unless you save it for making stock), and sometimes, removing the backbone means losing the delectable “oysters” from the thighs if not cut correctly.
An alternative to the spatchcock method is another butchering technique called “frogging.” I am not sure of the origin; I have read that it’s used in Asia and South America. I prefer frogging because you don’t lose any flavor/bones or “oysters.” The first time I tried cooking a frogged chicken, I was amazed at how easy it was to cook the chicken so perfectly. And the cutting technique is relatively simple.
I wanted to create an easy, addictive marinade for my chicken, and as we’re planning a trip to Portugal this year, I tried to create a Portuguese recipe called Piri Piri Chicken. This is a classic Portuguese recipe using a local hot sauce called Piri Piri as a staple ingredient in the marinade. (Piri Piri is the Swahili word for chile peppers). I worked in a temporary kitchen this week without most of my favorite seasonings, so while the recipe ultimately used too many substitutions to be considered Portuguese, I still think it’s a keeper. Super easy and tasty, the marinade comes together in minutes, and it’s easy to double the recipe, so you could marinate one chicken to cook now and marinate a second chicken to freeze and cook later.
Marinade for Frogged Chicken
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup lime (or lemon) juice
1/4 cup Melissa’s Costa Azul hot sauce
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped garlic
2 ½ tablespoons Melissa’s chopped ginger
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon toasted/dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, 3 to 5 pounds
Combine all ingredients in a jar, blender or small food processor—blend or process until combined. There will be one cup of marinade.
To cut/frog the chicken: Discard any visible fat from chicken. Rinse chicken and pat dry.
Put chicken breast up on a cutting board. Pull 1 leg away from the body and with a sharp knife, cut through skin between leg and breast until you hit joint (do not cut through joint). With your fingers behind joint, bend the leg back until the joint pops. Repeat with other leg.
With kitchen shears, cut through rib bones (starting from the thigh) on both sides of the breast up to, but not through, shoulder joints.
Open chicken, skin side up. Press on breastbone to crack and flatten with the heel of your hand.
Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. Remove chicken from marinade.
For grilling: Arrange skin side up on grill rack above drip pan. Cover barbecue: grill until skin is browned and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, turning often, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the chicken. Transfer to platter. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
For roasting: Preheat oven to 400° F. Arrange chicken skin side up on a grill rack or cooling rack over a sheet pan. Roast until skin is browned and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°F, turning often, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the chicken. Transfer to platter. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
These instructions from Maricel Presilla were found in her June 2009 article in Gourmet magazine.