In one of my favorite viral videos, actress and influencer Heart Evangelista urges women to “get a backbone.” In female empowerment world, this advice is gold. It’s the battlecry women utter to each other when we get together to draw strength and support from each other to successfully navigate our careers, significant others, children, in-laws, and our boundaries relative to these.
But in a roast chicken world where I also enjoy residency, “Lose the backbone!” is equally good advice. Spatchcocking a chicken, or taking out the backbone and then laying the chicken flat before roasting, helps it to cook more quickly and evenly, and the skin to get really crispy. Because let’s face it, crispy skin is pretty much the whole point of roast chicken.
This recipe is adapted from Zuni Café in San Francisco, which was famous for this dish. In addition to being pretty legendary, it’s also a complete meal done in under an hour. The succulent, flavorful chicken is perfectly complemented by crispy-chewy schmaltz-slicked croutons, bitter arugula, and a champagne vinaigrette made complex by the addition of spring onions and raisins. The raisins really make the dressing sing, so don’t leave them out. Yes, raisin haters, I’m talking to you. Trust me, they won’t taste like raisins and you’ll love them. Bitter arugula is a perfect backdrop, cutting the richness and the fat of the chicken and schmaltzy croutons, but you can also use other greens like radicchio, kale, lettuce. or any combination thereof.
The only drawback to this recipe is that it requires some forethought. Ideally, the chicken is salted a day or two before, a vital step to ensuring that your chicken meat is flavorful and moist and your skin is crispy. But if you forget to do this, salting the chicken for at least an hour before roasting will still be worth the effort.
Seriously, I can’t think of a better dish to serve at your next girlfriend lunch. Delicious enough to make your girls feel special, but quick and easy enough to ensure that you don’t miss out on any dish juicier than the chicken. And guaranteed to fortify every eater’s stomach, soul. and yes, backbone.
Chicken and bread
- 1 whole chicken, approx. 1.3 kg
- Baguette or some other crusty bread, cut into 1” cubes (around 5 cups)
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp champagne or wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 scallions, sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp raisins, minced finely
- 5 cups baby arugula
- Place chicken, breast side down, on cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut through bones on either side of backbone; discard backbone. Do not trim off any excess fat or skin. Flip chicken over and press on breastbone to flatten.
- Sprinkle salt liberally all over the chicken and under the skin. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered.
- When ready to roast, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss bread with stock and 2 tablespoons olive oil until pieces are evenly moistened. Arrange bread in an ovenproof skillet in a single layer (I used a cast iron pan).
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place, skin side up, on top of bread. Brush chicken skin with oil, then salt and pepper liberally. Roast chicken for 40-45 minutes, turning the skillet halfway through.
- While the chicken and bread roast, make the dressing by whisking vinegar and mustard together. Slowly whisk in ¼ cup oil. Stir in scallions and currants. Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.
- Transfer chicken to carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve chicken and add any drippings to the vinaigrette. Add bread and vinaigrette to arugula in a large bowl and toss to coat. Transfer salad to a serving platter and top with the carved chicken pieces.