How funky is your chicken?

Dietsch here again. The lady of the house tells me that my Roast Chicken, Three Ways post is pretty popular around here. Y’all seem to love the bird, and the post sparked a lot of discussion of ways to cut up and roast the bird. Now, I have something new to share, but before I move on, let me reiterate the three methods we confabbed about:

  1. Spatchcocking. Also known as butterflying, this method involves removing the backbone, opening the chicken like a book, and flattening the bird. This method is good for both grilling and roasting, as it takes less time than doing a whole bird, but the disadvantage is, you lose the yummy, yummy chicken butt and the succulent morsels that cling to the backbone.
  2. Keller. The Keller method involves leaving the chicken whole but raining down salt all over it and roasting at high heat. You retain the backbone and chicken butt and get the skin really crispy. Delicious.
  3. Zuni. Oh, I raised some hackles here. Har har har! The Zuni method, developed by Zuni Cafe’s chef, Judy Rodgers, has the cook salting the bird days in advance and then roasting at high heat. The skin gets very dry as a result of the salting and partisans of this method claim it produces the crispiest skin around. I demurred, saying it wasn’t much crispier than Keller’s method, but the Zuni method had the disadvantage of smoking the hell out of the house.

But now, something new. This isn’t a difference in roasting the bird, though; it’s a difference in prep. Some of you have already seen hints of this in Jen’s Weekend Eats post. It’s this funky looking bird:

"Leaping Frog" chicken

“Yo, Dietsch! What’s up with that?,” you may be wondering. Hey, that’s what I’m here to tell you.

This method is called the Leaping Frog Chicken, which culinary historian Maricel Presilla discovered in Argentina, and it’s featured in the June issue of Gourmet magazine. Dubbed “Leaping Frog” because it resembles one, this method for flattening a bird is worth adding to your ol’ repper-twar. You can get the full scoop at Gourmet, and there’s also a yummy sounding marinade recipe you might want to try. I’ll give you a brief rundown of it, though. Just be sure to give Gourmet some clicky love and get the full technique there.

(I’ll just tell you here that we haven’t tried the marinade yet. We both enjoy a basic chicken with nothing but salt added, and that’s the way I wanted to grill the first “Leaping Frog” bird I prepped, but we’ll probably try this marinade for version 2.)

Anyway, here’s a thumbnail of the method:

  1. With a knife, slice through the skin between the body of the bird and the drumstick. Loosen the thigh joint from the socket and leave the leg attached. Repeat on the other side.
  2. With shears, cut through the ribs up to the shoulder joint, but leave the shoulder intact. Do not cut through the shoulder. You want a bird that’s cut basically in half but attached at the shoulder.
  3. Open up the bird and place it skin-up on your work surface.
  4. Push down hard on the breastbone to break it and flatten the bird.
  5. Actually, there is no step 5.

Here’s what it should look like when finished:

What you get here is the best of all possible worlds. The chicken is flat, so it grills or roasts more quickly than an intact bird. But you waste nothing. You don’t lose the backbone or the oysters as you do with spatchcocking. I love chicken stock as well as the rest of you, but I’d buy a bag of necks for the stockpot rather than throw all my backbones in there.

[Jen’s got a Flickr set up of this bird, if you want to see more.]

Maricel Presilla’s so my new hero.

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9 thoughts on “How funky is your chicken?

  1. Ha! I sometimes cut the chicken straight down the backbone and roast it open like that – probably with Keller’s method. Salt (after lemon-juicing it), and 450. Super crispy. Moist insde.

    Could do with one of your dreenks right now.

  2. I am a Keller method fan, or I make Ina’s Friday night roast chicken. Lots of kosher salt and cooked at 425.

    Maricel has a great restaurant in Hoboken, NJ called Cucharamama.
    You can see her there most weekends, when she’s not in Gourmet!

  3. Jennifer Hess says:

    Oh, this was good. A really, really great way to prepare the bird. We need to get a bigger sort of pan or something for cooking it indoors, but it was fantastic grilled.

    And just as an aside, all of the bits that didn’t get eaten at dinner or in the chicken salad Mike made with the leftover meat are in the freezer and will go into our next batch of chicken stock. :)

  4. Can you believe it – I’ve never roasted a whole chicken! But I just recently started eating meat after 13 years of not eating. One step at a time, eh? Thanks for the post!

  5. Wow. That’s awesome. Sometimes I wonder how we never came up with that before. I am looking forward to trying this method out. I often do a beer can chicken which yields all crispy skin. It’s late, and I’ve eaten, but I’m getting hungry just thinking of ways to do this – lemon slices under the skin; a couple of cast iron pans on top to flatten it more…thanks again !

  6. wes says:

    Just found your blog, so I’m a few weeks behind, but interesting–leap-frog chicken. My dad taught me a variation of spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken. He would cut down the breast bone and then spread it out and press down to flatten. I use it mainly when I want to grill the chicken whole.

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