This spatchcock chicken idea sat in my “drafts” file for a long time. It was really just a list of ingredients — I wasn’t sure how I’d put them together, but I knew they would work if I did. With the citrus season is in full swing, I just had to kick my creativity into gear and spatchcock citrus chicken was born.
So let’s talk about this spineless chicken — it’s called spatchcocking. Essentially removing the backbone and pressing the breasts flat with the heel of your hand. What I prefer about this cooking method over roasting a whole bird is that the chicken cooks faster because more of its surface area is in direct contact with the heat source (in this case a skillet). And because the chicken is still attached to all of its other parts, it doesn’t dry out the way, chicken pieces sometimes do. Plus, it’s easier to carve up a flat bird, than a round-ish one!
I’ve spatchcocked plenty of chickens before and while the concept is simple, it can take a little muscle — or at least — very strong hands and a sharp knife or kitchen shears.
So, I recommend befriending the butcher at your supermarket. Mine deftly removes the backbone from a whole chicken for me — any time I need it — no extra charge!
With the hard work done, putting together the rest of this meal is a breeze. Set a cast iron skillet or heavy pan into the oven to preheat. This is so the chicken sears as soon as it touches the pan.
This gremolata-like rub for the chicken uses fresh orange zest, garlic and plenty of freshly chopped thyme. I know my orange doesn’t look “orange”. It’s a red navel orange that we get here in Florida – and shouldn’t be confused with blood oranges. Use whatever type you can find!
After zesting the orange, segment it by cutting off the rind to expose the pulpy flesh and then use a sharp knife to cut out the individual segments. Prep the onion and olives and you’re ready to go!
I used a cast iron skillet for this, but if you don’t have one, a roasting pan will also work. The resulting chicken has a crispy skin and tender, juicy flesh.
The vegetables (and fruit) offer a great interplay of briny, salt and sweet juice with the al-dente crunch of slightly mellowed onion. You’ll have plenty of pan juices to drizzle over the top, too. Want more citrus favorites? Try this winter citrus salad with sherry vinegar dressing.
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Spatchcocked Citrus Chicken
- 1 5-lb whole chicken backbone removed
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 orange zested and segmented
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion peeled and thinly sliced vertically
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives halved
- a large heavy skillet that the chicken will fit comfortably in - 12 or 13 inch cast iron skillet preferred
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the skillet in the oven to heat.
- Combine thyme, garlic, orange zest, kosher salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Toss to combine.
- Place the chicken, breast side up on a cutting board or baking sheet. Lay the chicken flat and using your hands, press firmly on the breast to flatten it out. Coat both sides of the chicken with olive oil and then sprinkle with the herb mixture. Rub the herbs into the chicken with your fingers.
- Using a pair of oven mitts, remove the skillet from the oven and place on the stove. Transfer the chicken, breast side down to the hot skillet and return to the oven. Cook for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and carefully flip the chicken in the pan. Scatter the onions, orange sements and kalamata olives around the chicken and return to the oven. Cook for an additional 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Carve the wings, and legs from the chicken. Cut the breasts in half. Transfer chicken pieces to a platter. Serve with onions, oranges, olives and pan juices.
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