How to make perfectly butterflied and crispy skillet chicken
While I try to concentrate on cookbook post-editing…
Let’s talk simple geometry here.
A bird is a three-dimensional object. The surface of a skillet is a two-dimensional plane.
How do we warp a three-dimensional object for it to make perfectly parallel contact with a two-dimensional plane, in the explicit interest of a chicken, creating that impeccably even, blistered and crispy skin? Aside from the fact that it’s super fun, of course (it is).
Plus a five-minutes pan sauce too delicious for its simplicity.
Ate this two days in a row and counting.
- One small (2.5 lbs) chicken
- Fine sea salt to season
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 tsp fish sauce, plus more to adjust
- 1 tsp pickling juice (capers, chilis, olives or etc)
- 1/4 tsp extra-dark soy sauce, plus more to adjust (for color)
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- Couple turns of freshly ground black pepper
- Butterfly the chicken according to video instruction. Remember, SHARP PAIRING KNIFE IS KEY!
- Lightly season the meat-side of the chicken with sea salt, then lay them flat in a sheet-tray with skin-side up. Lightly season the skin-side with more sea salt, then place the sheet-tray in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. This process air-dries the skins which is crucial for the crispiness.
- Place a large (at least 12" or 30 cm wide) non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil to generously coat the skillet. Arrange the chickens skin-side down in the skillet, making sure the skins lay completely flat against the skillet without overlapping. Then don't touch them for 5 minutes. If you want to place a brick or somethin' on top of the chicken during this time, feel free. I didn't find it necessary.
- After which, a good amount of chicken fat would've been rendered out from the skin. Scatter the smashed garlics and fresh thyme on top/meat-side of the chicken (we don't want them directly in the oil because they will burn quickly) and add the unsalted butter in the skillet. Slightly tilt the skillet to collect all the hot grease towards one side of the skillet, then use a large spoon to ladle the grease and baste it over the garlics, thyme and the meat. Wear a mitt if you want to avoid splatters. Continue this motion for the next 7 minutes (perfect for a 2.5 lbs chicken) to 10 minutes (if your chicken is bigger), depending on the thickness of your chicken.
- Why do this? This technique extracts the fragrance from the garlics and thyme without burning them, and it allows the chicken to collect all the browned butter bits inside the nooks and crannies of the meats instead of leaving them to burn. It also gently cooks the meat-side of the chicken to perfect and juicy suppleness while the skin-side crisp up.
- 7 minutes into basting, the skins should be golden browned and crispy and the meats should be perfectly cooked. Please restrain your urge to overcook the meat. Remove the chickens, garlics and thyme onto a plate to rest with the skin-side up, and leave about 2 tbsp of grease inside the skillet (keep the extra grease for final brushing). Whisk in all-purpose flour and ground white pepper and cook for about a minute. Then whisk in chicken stock, fish sauce, pickling juice and dark soy sauce. Let cook for 2 minutes until thickened, then add whatever juices that oozed out of the chickens during resting. Whisk in creme fraiche and black pepper and let simmer for 30 seconds more.
- Pour the sauce onto the serving plate and place the chicken on top (don't pour the sauce over the chicken or you'll compromise the crispy skins). Brush the skins with the reserved grease to give it a beautiful sheen, then serve immediately.