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Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m gonna cook a recipe from every episode of Good Eats. A have a laundry list of reasons, Covid screwing up travel and dining for my travel and dining blog, boredom, but mostly just because I have always wanted to. I’m using the episode order from Discovery Plus, which is different from the original aired episode order, but D+ is the only place you can (legally) stream all the episodes of Good Eats, so that’s the order I’m going with. That makes the first episode “A Bird in the Pan”, an episode with only one recipe; a spatchcocked and broiled whole chicken.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe. You do some basic chicken butchery, make a rub that goes under the skin, then park it under a broiler until it’s done. You can find the recipe on foodnetwork.com, but I highly recommend you watch the actual episode if possible. If not, read this whole article before you attempt it. Some of the stuff on the online version of the recipe isn’t accurate.
First, we’re gonna need a bit of equipment. You’re gonna need a roasting pan. They’re pretty good to have around. One of those things you don’t actually use super often, but when you do, you’re very glad you have it. I got this one for Christmas this year from Daisy.
Next up, some kitchen shears. I use these that I bought on Amazon about three years ago. They come in handy on a nearly daily basis and this recipe is gonna be pretty hard to recreate without them.
Last up, a mortar and pestle. I got this one from Daisy for my last birthday, it’s the perfect size for a lot of stuff, this recipe included. I actually have another, larger one, but for smaller stuff this one actually works better. With a small batch in a large mortar and pestle, you’re kinda constantly chasing everything around the work bowl. A small one keeps everything right where you want it.
Okay, time to cook finally. The first thing I did was make the seasoning (technically a gremolata). This part is super simple, just put everything in the work bowl of the mortar and pestle and mash it all up. The most important part is to start with some good whole peppercorns. I usually buy most of my spices from Penzey’s, but the last time I was low on pepper I checked Amazon out of sheer laziness and decided to give these peppercorns a try. I have been very pleased with them. Totally reasonably priced, great flavor, good zip top bag to keep them fresh.
Also, if you have a kid that’s interested in cooking, this is a great part for them to help with. Ava really enjoyed crushing things up with a mortar and pestle, maybe a little too much. She was also super proud of herself because I had her zest the lemon. I’m honestly pretty proud too, how many four year olds can zest a lemon?
Next up, chop some aromatics to put in the pan as your “rack”. I ended up using three medium onions, five or six carrots, and a few stalks of celery just cut up into large chunks. They don’t have to be pretty, they’ll be discarded later.
Now it’s time to face the chicken. This is honestly a pretty easy process if you have the aforementioned kitchen shears. It also helps a lot to watch Alton do it in the video. It’s much easier to explain in a video than in text. Basically, you’re gonna take out the backbone and the keel bone so you can press the chicken out flat for cooking and make butchering easier. It also helps if you just make your significant other do it.
Once the bird is properly prepped, work the seasoning mixture under the skin on the thighs and breasts with a spoon, then kinda spread it around with your hands. Again, you can totally just have your significant other do this part.
Now we actually put the bird in the pan (haha, get it?), and park it under a broiler.
The version of the recipe on foodnetwork.com says 10 minutes on the breast side first, but the video actually says more like 18. 10 minutes is almost certainly not going to be long enough. In reality, just do the breast side until it’s deep brown, then flip and cook until it’s done. You’re going to really want to have an instant-read thermometer, and honestly it’s something everyone should have anyway. This one from Amazon is generally regarded as a solid choice for not a lot of money.
Once you see at least 165 in both the breast and the thigh, you’re ready to rest and make the pan sauce. Pretty much just deglaze the pan with wine and then add chicken stock and reduce. Pretty basic sauce, and pretty tasty.
Slice up your bird however you want it and pair with some sides and you have dinner.
So how was it? Actually, it was not very good at all, but that’s due to operator error. See, I was buying this particular bird during a pandemic in a winter storm with a packed grocery store while not wearing glasses because they just fog up when wearing a mask in the freezing ass cold. All of this is to say, I bought the wrong chicken. The recipe calls for a chicken in the 3-4 pound range. The combination of stress, not being able to see, and totally not checking my notes resulted in me buying a chicken that was actually 5.85lb.
As a result, when the breast side looked done (probably 20-22 minutes under my broiler), and then the meat side looked done (another 15-10), the chicken LOOKED amazing and all the moisture was still inside the chicken, but the internal temp was something like 120 degrees. No where near cooked through. I couldn’t keep blasting it with the broiler because it would look like charcoal on the outside by the time the interior temp was at 165, so I turned off the broiler and set the oven to 350 to bring the interior up to temp.
By the time the interior was up to temp, I had a solid quart of moisture in the pan which was supposed to contain nothing but a couple of ounces of rendered fat. As a result, my chicken was SUPER dry. Like, the Sahara Desert would be mad jealous.
I don’t blame the recipe though. Had I actually performed this recipe on a chicken in the 3-4 pound range it would have been cooked right when it was supposed to be, still juicy and full of moisture. The broiler method resulted in crispy skin, the sauce tasted good, and the seasoning was great. Basically, if you ACTUALLY follow the recipe and use a smaller chicken, this recipe will work great.
So there you have it, off to an amazing start by immediately screwing everything up. Being terrible at stuff has never stopped me from continuing to do it and write about it though, so I’ll be back in a few days with a recipe from the next episode of Good Eats. Maybe this time I’ll actually follow the recipe.