Flatten the curve (bird)
” In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can promise you this… “
I’ve always been an avid campaigner in the flattening of a bird, a process of turning this hopelessly 3-dimensional animal that insists on uneven heat distribution, into a 2-dimensional disk that crisp up indiscriminately across the plane. Without the technicality of deboning the entire chicken and armed with only a single kitchen shears and a flat skillet, I’m going to show you how to easily de-joint and de-scaffold a bird so that it can achieve an unequivocally crispy and blistered skin-cap on one side, and slow-cooked therefore succulent and unbelievably juicy meat (even the breasts!) on the other. In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can at the very least, promise you that you’ll never want to roast another bird after this.
STEP 1: You’ll be able to finish this entire process with a kitchen shears. Remove the wing tips and place the bird with the backbone/spine facing the counter. Then cut through the breast bone to open the bird up.
STEP 2: Flip the bird over with the skin-side up, then bend and snap/dislocate the joints that connects the thighs to the backbone/spine by bending the thighs 90 degrees upward. Flip the bird back now with the skin-side down. With a kitchen shear, completely cut through the joints that connects the wings to the breast (but have them still attached), then remove the triangular breast-bone as seen in this photo.
STEP 3: To further flatten the bird, cut along the rib cage to separate it from the backbone/spine, then cut through it again somewhere around the mid-point to flatten the natural curvature of the rib cage. Also cut through the wishbones that connects the shoulder and breast to the rib cage. Don’t worry, there’s no strict technicality here. The rule of thumb is disconnect every single joints that holds the bird in shape so that it can be completely opened up and flattened.
STEP 4: Now cut through the joints that connects the drumstick to the thighs, and the joints that connects the thigh to the backbone/spine. Then cut open the meat on the drumsticks and thighs to completely open it up and expose the bones like this.
STEP 5: Finally, cut alongside the meat that is attached to the pelvic bones to further open and flatten the hip area. Cut and remove the two pointy tips of the pelvic bones. At this point, the entire surface of the skins should be able to lay completely flat without curves.
STEP 6: Lay the bird meat-side up first and evenly sprinkle 3/4 of the dry seasoning on top. Flip it over with the skin-side up, and sprinkle the rest of the seasoning evenly over the skins. UNCOVERED, let the bird marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or 6~8 hours.
- 1 chicken (mine is about 3 lbs), see note*
- 2 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground galangal, optional
- 3~4 cloves of garlics, smashed and peeled
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, or rosemary, or other herbs of your choosing
- Flatten and marinate the bird according to the instructions in the photos.
- In a cold, large, flat, non-stick skillet that will fit the entire spread out chicken, lay the chicken with its skin-side down and make sure the skins are spread out without folds, no oil needed. Set the skillet on medium-low heat (on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say a 3.5) over a burner that is wide instead of focused in the center, then partially cover the skillet with a lid.
- The skin will slowly render down and crisp up, resulting in the chicken eventually cooking in its own fat. It won't need much baby-sitting and should take about 25~28 minutes for the skin to become evenly golden browned, blistered and crispy. If not, turn up the heat a bit in the end to achieve this. In the last five minutes, add the garlics and thyme to infuse the oil which flavor the chicken as well. When the skin-side is fully crisped up, the meat side should be about 50~60% cooked through, looking slightly opaque.
- Now flip the chicken over and cook the meat-side for another 3 minutes. If your chicken is a lot bigger than 3 lbs, you may need a bit more time. But catching the sweet spot when the meat is JUST cooked through but not a minute longer, is paramount in its final juiciness and succulence.
- Rest the chicken a couple minutes and serve. Do not forgo the extremely flavorful but often overlooked meats along the backbone, collecting deliciousness from the neck meats down the oysters by the thigh area and a strip of crispy skin on the entire runway.
* My chicken is relatively small, about 3 lbs. You can certainly use larger chicken but adjust the amount of seasoning according. * Avoid any garlic or onion powder in the seasoning that will burn easily and become sticky. Keep the seasonings simple with salt and pepper, and introduce other aromatics later on in the cooking process.