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sunday dinner: roast chicken & asparagus with rhubarb butter.

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Confession: I keep a list of my 25 favorite words on my iPhone. And it is one of my very favorite things. Words like superfluous, modernity, flibbertigibbet. Effervescent, ephemera, dusk. They roll off the tongue and just bring me such joy. I have always had a certain love affair with language; it consistently amazes me that there is a perfect word out there to describe nearly every situation. I have another list of words that I don’t love, but that’s another blog post for another day.

And my favorite culinary term, you may ask? It is without a doubt, most assuredly: SPATCHCOCK. Say it with me ‘spatchcock’. S-P-A-T-C-H-C-O-C-K. It’s a truly glorious word (thanks, Ireland). And what sounds like something that is decidedly NSFW is actually just a fancy way of describing the removal of the backbone of a chicken so you can splay it out spread eagle style for cooking. When a chicken is spatchcocked, it cooks more evenly, and it helps the leg/thigh meat cook slightly faster than the rest which prevents the breast meat from drying out. Added bonus? Maximum amounts of crispy, salty skin, which is the primary reason we’re doing this anyway, am I right?

To properly spatchcock your chicken, you can do a little Youtube research and figure it out yourself, but I also highly recommend having your friendly neighborhood grocery store butcher do it for you. Grab a whole chicken of your choosing and toss it in his or her direction, then go about the rest of your shopping. By the time you’re ready to checkout, your chicken will be sans backbone and ready for cookin’ with little to no effort on your part.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Roast Chicken & Asparagus with Rhubarb Butter

You will need:

Roast Chicken
1 3 – 3 1/2 pound chicken, backbone removed
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Rhubarb Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 stalk rhubarb, roughly chopped
Juice of one orange (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

Kitchen Equipment: two rimmed baking sheets, small saucepan

With your chicken properly spatchcocked (I just can’t stop saying it), we’re ready to begin, so preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, spread out your chicken on a baking sheet skin side up and pat dry with a paper towel or two. A dry chicken is the best chicken and will lead to the crispiest skin; leave any moisture on the bird and the skin will steam in the oven, leaving you with a flabby mess. No one wants a flabby mess, so pat ‘er down good. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rhubarb butter. Chop your rhubarb and combine with the orange juice, honey and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain the rhubarb in a small bowl and reserve the cooking liquid. Cool the cooked rhubarb before combining with the butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a bit to save time). When properly cool, mix the rhubarb and the butter together until fully incorporated and the butter has a whipped consistency.

Now let’s get down to business. Grab the tray with your chicken and the rhubarb butter, and with clean hands, carefully slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making two little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using a small spoon or your hands, insert some of the butter under the skin in each of the four pockets you’ve created. Use the skin to spread the butter evenly, adding more as necessary. Once the butter is applied, add a few sprigs of thyme into each pocket.

Rub the outside of the chicken with one tablespoon olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place your seasoned chicken on the middle rack in your preheated oven, and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 40-45 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest section of the thigh should read 165 degrees when the chicken is properly cooked.

Remove from oven and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil to rest.

While your chicken is resting, turn your oven down to 400 degrees.

Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until bright green and slightly charred, about 10-12 minutes. Remove asparagus from the oven and transfer to a serving dish, squeezing a bit of lemon juice over the top for an added kick.

Serve your chicken table side and use the leftover rhubarb cooking liquid as a delicious jus. This dish is bright and tangy, perfect for a bottle of rosé, a bit of a Spring breeze and some good company. Get a little boozy and giggle mercilessly while shouting ‘spatchcock’ to the heavens. It will soon be one of your favorite words too.

Side note: grab a few extra stalks of rhubarb at the grocery store, make this rhubarb compote, and serve it over vanilla ice cream for dessert. BONKERS good. *immediately runs to the store to buy more rhubarb and vanilla ice cream*

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