Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flat Chicken for Dinner

Hi! We had chicken for dinner tonight. I prepared it in the Italian manner, flattened so that the skin turns our crispy and brown all around, and it is very easy to separate into serving pieces. Usually, these recipes require marinating the chicken and grilling it outside. That is certainly delicious, but not really practical for a weekday meal, at least at our house. Here's my method for a shortcut version that's still delicious! There's also a version if you didn't plan ahead and your chicken is still frozen.

Italian Flattened Chicken
1 3-3.5lb. whole organic / free range chicken
1 Tbl. dried Italian seasoning
3 Tb. olive oil
1 Tbl. salt
1 tsp. pepper
a cast iron pan (to press down the chicken while it cooks)

This chicken takes an hour to cook, but you don't have to stand around while it's cooking. You can go away and do other stuff and just come back to it to turn it. If you have children, be careful that they don't come near the hot cooking chicken though.

Mix the olive oil, seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Put some paper towels on your cutting board. This helps it not slide around and is safer. Set the chicken on the board and hold it upright (legs down) with the backbone facing you. Use a sharp French knife to cut down each side of the chicken's backbone. Lay the chicken skin side down on the board. Using a sharp paring knife, cut around the hard part of the breastbone in the center of the chicken and wiggle it out. Be careful the first time you do this, but after you've done it once, it's no big deal. Turn the chicken over and cut off the wing tips. Wipe the chicken with more paper towels. It should be laying pretty flat.
Preheat an electric skillet to 350F. Or use a large regular skillet over medium high heat.
Spread the olive oil seasoning over the skin side of the chicken. Lay it in the skillet skin side down and put a cast iron pan on the chicken to press it down flat to the skillet. If you don't have a cast iron pan, use aluminum foil covered bricks.
Allow the chicken to cook for 20min. Take off the cast iron pan. Spread the other half of the olive oil seasoning over the chicken and turn it over. Place the cast iron pan on the chicken again. Cook another 20min.
Take the pan off the chicken. Turn the chicken over and cook 10 min. Turn and cook another 10 min. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Separate the chicken into serving pieces. It should cut apart easily.

If your chicken is partially frozen: Put the whole chicken in a deep bowl of cold water that has about 1/3-1/2 cup salt dissolved in it. Allow the chicken to soak for about an hour (if it's still frozen, put the bowl in the fridge and let it complete thawing in there). Salt lowers the freezing point of water, and it will cause the chicken to thaw faster. Also, it serves as a kind of brining, but it's not that effective as such because the chicken is frozen.

I served this chicken with butter and cheese polenta and lima beans (I know, a rather heavy veg, but I like them!). It was yummy!
Note about chicken. It seems like an organic chicken is too expensive, and there is no doubt that it costs more per pound. However, once I measured the amount of waste between a conventionally produced chicken and an organic, free range chicken. The conventionally produced chicken had about three times the amount of waste in the form of fat and extra flabby skin (yuck!) that I had to trim off. After cooking, the organic chicken has firm, flavorful meat with tasty, thin skin. The other type has a more watery, loosely textured meat, with thicker skin that doesn't crisp as well-- it can be quite unappetizing. I've found that I can serve smaller portions of the better quality chicken (as long as there are tasty side dishes) and everyone is still happy. So, from the standpoint of waste, taste, and nutrition the organic chicken might be a better value for you, although it costs more per pound. Still, price is price and if you can't justify the extra according to your budget, this is still a fun way to prepare and eat chicken!

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