Spatchcocked Chicken (Healthy Eating Made Simple)
Before we get to Alta’s post – congrats to our iHerb.com Baking Gift Basket Give-Away winners: Tiffany V. and Tammy B.!
Healthy eating and simple can co-exist.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean hours of cooking. It doesn’t have to mean hours of planning, either. A great many of us can eat pretty well when everything goes right and we set our minds to it. But then life gets in the way. The kids have after-school functions. You have to work late. There are errands to run, the house needs cleaning, or it’s just plain stressful trying to fit in an hour or more in the gym, plus an hour to cook dinner every. single. night. And stressing about getting healthy isn’t healthy!
It CAN be easier. I promise.
It starts with stocking up.
Having a well-stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer can help even those who are very much against planning meals in advance. If you always have key ingredients, you can wander into your kitchen, and wonder “what’s for dinner?” and grab a few items and be cooking in no time.
Here is a small list of things I always have on hand in my kitchen:
- Dairy-free milk (usually coconut milk)
- A variety of gluten-free flours
- Sweeteners, such as honey, coconut palm sugar, turbinado sugar
- Tomato paste and canned tomatoes
- Lemons and limes
- Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
- Olive oil, coconut oil
- Vinegars, such as balsamic and red wine vinegar
- A myriad of spices (I probably own more spices than most reasonable people, but I love them – spices can make things interesting!)
- Nuts (cashews, almonds, etc.)
- Frozen vegetables (peas, spinach)
- Frozen or canned pumpkin/squash puree
- Frozen meats – often whole free-range chickens and grass-fed ground beef, but many times, frozen shrimp and salmon
- Canned tuna and sardines
- Potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
- Greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. – frozen or fresh)
- Frozen homemade chicken stock (of course, canned is fine too)
With these items, I can make a LOT of meals. I can make a chicken soup using a whole chicken, and simmer it with broth, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. I can bake sweet potatoes and serve them with frozen veggies and salmon. I can make burger patties and serve them with sauteed spinach and a side of rice. When I have leftover cooked rice, I love to make fried rice – just toss in a scrambled egg or two, some garlic, ginger, onion, chopped carrots and peas, and season with tamari, and it’s done! One of my favorite meals during the week, however, is so easy to prepare that it appears on our “menu” almost weekly – roast chicken.
In order to roast a whole chicken in a reasonable amount of time during the week, I “spatchcock” it. To do this, I cut on either side of the backbone to remove it, and basically flatten out the chicken. Spatchcocking is a beautiful thing. If you’ve ever lamented that roasting a whole chicken causes the breasts to dry out before the dark meat is done, that it takes too long, or that it’s flavorless, try spatchcocking it. It will roast in a fraction of the time, and because the breasts are in the center, it will take longer for the heat of the oven to reach them, allowing ample time for the legs and thighs to complete their transition into tender, tasty morsels.
The result is a delicious chicken with no brining, marinating, trussing, or any annoying and fussy steps, many of which require advance planning. My version involves cutting out the backbone (which I freeze to make chicken stock), rubbing down the chicken with spices, and throwing it in the oven. Done.
I might throw some potatoes or sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time to bake, and then I have some time to focus on other tasks while dinner is cooking. When the chicken is done and resting, I can steam some veggies (either pulling from my frozen supply, or if I did make it to the store, I’ll steam broccoli or something easy). The meal is unprocessed, healthy, and stress-free. An added bonus? It’s one of my husband’s favorite meals. (Mine too.)
One more thing. Leftovers can make your next meal easier, too. Just chop leftover chicken for chicken salad, tacos, enchiladas, or even throw into scrambled eggs (yes, really – it’s delicious!). This makes roasting a chicken really worth it, in my opinion.
Season the chicken with whatever you like. My favorite spice blend is a Sambhar Masala spice blend that I purchase from a local vendor here in Dallas. Just for you, however, I opted to make a version of this spice blend from scratch. You can opt for an entirely different flavor each time you roast the chicken – talk about variety!
1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
1 tablespoon masala spice blend, recipe below (or any spice blend you like)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if your spice blend contains salt)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the spice blend and salt. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut on either side of the backbone, through the ribs, to remove the backbone completely. Pat the chicken dry, and rub the chicken all over with the spices (I like to even rub a little underneath the skin to increase flavor). You don’t have to use it all – just season the chicken well. Place it in a roasting pan or a cast iron skillet and press on the breastbone to flatten out the chicken.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to roast for 45-55 minutes or until juices run clear when thigh is pricked (and meat near thigh bone is no longer pink – about 165 degrees.) Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes, then carve and serve.
Masala Spice Blend
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
20 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
8 curry leaves, minced
Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, caraway seeds, and peppercorns to skillet. Allow to toast until fragrant, stirring once or twice, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder – works great!) or mortar and pestle and grind until no large pieces remain. Stir together with remaining spices. Refrigerate unused portion in a jar for up to two weeks.
Alta Mantsch is the author of Tasty Eats At Home, a food blog dedicated to tasty gluten and dairy-free recipes, foods, and living, and is a Community Leader at the Udi’s Gluten Free Living Community Forum.