I want to use a particular word to describe this chicken. A terrible word. A hideous word. A word that should inherently mean something good but has been co-opted into something grotesquely visceral. A word that rhymes with ‘foist’.
That’s what this chicken is. It’s super super super something-that-rhymes-with-‘foist’. So very foist. Pair the adjective-that-shall-not-be-named along with the zip of the spicy lamb meat – heaven. And the avocado yogurt you can serve on the side? People eat that shit up like crazy. They go nuts about it, making this one of my favourite dinner party meals to serve. You automatically give people something comforting and succulent that also comes with SAUCE. People love all of those words. Plus the chicken can basically get pulled apart, so you don’t even have to have a panic attack when it comes to carving the damn thing. Everything’s coming up [insert your name here]!
Spatchcocked Chicken w/ Merguez Sausages
Adapted from Laura Calder (French Taste)
Serves 4, though the recipe can easily be doubled to accommodate a larger crowd (doubling the sauce would likely be unnecessary, though, as it already makes quite a large quantity)
1 chicken, roughly 3 lb (1.3 kg)
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp hot or sweet smoked paprika (optional, but highly recommended – this is not the same as regular paprika)
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 merguez sausages (depending on how big they are and how many people you’re serving)
2 ripe avocadoes (slightly overripe would be much better than slightly underripe)
2 clove of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pat the chicken completely dry with paper towels. Flip the bird breast-side-down and cut out the back bone using a sharp, sturdy pair of kitchen scissors, starting at the edges of the little nub at the base of the spine. Turn the chicken over, splay the legs and thighs out, then press your weight down on the breast bone until you hear/feel it crack, which should flatten out the bird a bit more. Season with salt and pepper on both sides and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mash up the butter until smooth. Mix in the thyme, cumin, paprika, pepper flakes, salt and a good grind of pepper. Smear the butter all over the chicken, covering every bit of surface with a thick slick of the spiced butter (this includes the underside of the chicken). If the butter seems a bit resistant to adhere to the skin of the chicken, just keep massaging until the warmth of your hands starts to help. Once the chicken is slicked, cut a small slit in each side of the loose skin stretched out near the drumsticks. Push the drumstick tips through the cuts in the skin to secure them crossed in front of each other, like the chicken is crossing its legs. Fold back the wing tips a bit until you can tuck them in under the chicken, like it has its arms folded behind its head.
Carefully place the chicken, breast-side-down in a roasting pan/dish that can easily accommodate the width of the chicken. Roast for 15 minutes then carefully transfer the chicken to a cutting board and place the merguez sausages in the roasting dish. Place the chicken on top of the sausages and pop the whole thing back in the oven for another 35-45 minutes (until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads ~ 165 degrees). I usually roast it for 60 minutes in total. If you would like the skin to be crispier, you can turn the oven up to 450 degrees F during the final 10-15 minutes of roasting. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before transferring to a cutting board (leaving foil over the sausages to keep warm).
While the chicken rests, make the avocado sauce. Place all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth, then taste and season very generously with salt and pepper. Place in a small bowl until ready to serve.
Pull the leg/thigh off each side of the chicken, leaving them whole, as they look quite pleasing this way. Pull the wings off (both wing and drumette left together). Slice the breast meat off, starting at the breast bone and cutting along it, as close to the bone as possible. Slice each breast into 3 thick slabs, cutting against the grain. Arrange the chicken pieces attractively on a serving platter with a heap of sausages beside them and a bowl of avocado sauce. Let out a deep, contented sigh.