Spatchcocked Roast Chicken with Onions, Brats and Herbs

By • November 6, 2012 0 Comments

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Author Notes: Onions roasted with the chicken and pureed with sausage-y, herbed pan juices provide a creamy, flavorful sauce for this family favorite. We never can eat all of the goodies cooked in the skillet with the bird, so they tend to find their way into lunches over the next few days, sometimes playing center stage with bits of leftover chicken in supporting roles. Mix the leftover bits, with a fair bit of sauce, into rice, farro, freekeh, etc. or over leftover mashed potatoes or toast. Stir in leftover sides if you want. -- you get the picture. Also, view this as a blueprint rather than a recipe. I suggest some variations in a note following the instructions. Enjoy! ;o)AntoniaJames


Serves 4-6 depending on the size of the bird and the size of the appetites

  • ½ pound bratwurst sausages (uncooked)
  • 1 chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (See step 1, below.)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small stalks of celery, with leaves if possible
  • Fresh parsley – a small handful, about 20 stems, leaves removed and stems finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme (or 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram (or 2 tablespoons of fresh marjoram leaves)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg or more, to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine, divided in half
  • 2 tablespoons prepared coarse or stoneground mustard
  • VARIATIONS: Celery stalks; fennel; or artichoke hearts, either with or without the sausage slices. See notes at the end for suggestions as to the herbs I use with each of the foregoing.
  1. Before doing anything else (including cutting your chicken and slicing the vegetables), use a fork to prick the brats in three or four places and put them into a large cast iron skillet. Turn your oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (425 for convection ovens). Heat the skillet on the stove over medium heat until very hot, and then put it into the oven. This partially cooks the sausages, making it possible to slice them before roasting with the chicken.
  2. While the oven is heating, remove the backbone from the chicken. (Or, if you're reading this before you've bought your bird, ask the butcher to do it for you.) Pat the skin dry. Generously salt it all over both sides. Let it sit on the cutting board while you do the next 2 steps.
  3. Slice the onions and garlic, and remove the parsley leaves from their stems. At this point, you can finely chop the parsley stems to add to the skillet while roasting the chicken, or you can save them for stock or to chop and add to a pot of beans or a rustic soup. If you want your sauce very smooth, set the stems aside for another use.
  4. When the oven has reached 450 degrees, quickly remove the skillet (shutting the door right away so as not to decrease the oven’s temperature). Remove the sausages to a plate and cover them. In the middle of the skillet, put the onions, garlic, bay leaves and celery stalks in a pile. If using the parsley stems, chopped, put them on the pile, too. Drizzle about 1/2 cup of filtered water on the vegetables.
  5. Put the chicken on the vegetables, skin side up and return the skillet to the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Thoroughly clean with hot soapy water the cutting board on which the raw chicken was sitting.
  6. While the chicken is roasting, put the thyme, marjoram, parsley leaves (coarsely chopped) and nutmeg into a small bowl. Shortly before the timer is to go off, slice the sausages at a slight angle, about 3/4" thick. I do this right on the plate, so as not to waste any juices that escape.
  7. After the chicken has been roasting for 30 minutes, remove it briefly from the oven, immediately closing the oven door.
  8. Using a sturdy spoon in your non-dominant hand, lift up the chicken and using a large spoon in the other hand, bring the onions and celery stalks out to the edges of the skillet. Quickly dump the herbs into the center of the skillet. Let the chicken rest on the herbs; then, scatter the sausage slices around it and pour in any juices that collected on the plate. Pour ½ cup of wine over the bird. Put it back in the oven.
  9. After another 30 minutes (1 hour of cooking time), check to see whether the chicken is done, either by pushing a meat thermometer or oven probe into the thickest part of the thigh – it’s ready at 165 degrees -- or by wiggling the leg. If it jiggles quite easily and the juices between the thigh and the body of the chicken run clear, instead of pink, it’s done. If it needs more time – my 4+ pound chickens typically take another 15 minutes and a 5 pound chicken can require as much as another 30, depending on a variety of factors – put it back in and check again in 15-20 minutes, but before doing that, if the sausage slices have darkened considerably, flip them over. Also, if the skin on the chicken's breast has darkened as much as you want, tent it lightly with foil. Roast for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until done.
  10. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a clean cutting board and cover with foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the sauce. Turn off the oven.
  11. Remove the bay leaves from the skillet and discard. Put the sausage slices in an ovenproof bowl. Remove the celery stalks and let someone who really likes braised celery eat them. (They’re not very pretty. Feel free to slice on the angle and serve with the sausage slices, however, if you like. I'll readily admit that I hoard the celery for myself.) Put the sausage slices back in the oven (with the celery slices, if you're inclined to share and serve them, to keep warm until serving. This is a good time to put in the oven the plates you'll be serving on, as well.
  12. Remove the onions and whatever herbs cling to them. Puree, either with an immersion blender (I do this in a 2-cup Pyrex measure) or in a small food processor. Add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid if necessary to get a nice smooth puree.
  13. Add the onion puree. Put the remaining wine and the mustard into the skillet and turn the heat up to medium, stirring to blend well. Turn the heat down; let the sauce simmer for a few minutes. If it’s too thick – it shouldn’t be, as the onions and celery tend to release a lot of juice – add ½ cup of water, or as much as may be necessary to achieve the consistency you want.
  14. Check for salt and correct. Grind over the sauce black pepper to taste.
  15. Carve the chicken. Serve with the sauce and the sausage slices.
  16. A chicken roasted like this does best with simple sides. For special occasions, we like old-fashioned egg noodles tossed with butter, a sharply dressed green salad, and either a fruit mostarda or chutney, or homemade pickles. Fingerlings sliced lengthwise with garlic slices, roasted in a separate, foil covered dish during the last half hour of the chicken’s roasting time, also work well. Greens wilted on the stove top with a splash of lemon or wine vinegar also compliment this nicely.
  17. Enjoy!! ;o)
  18. N.B. Variations, either with or without the sausage slices: Celery stalks cut at an angle into 2” lengths and added after the first 30-minute roasting period. Use the same herbs, but not the nutmeg. Fennel, sliced, and added after the first 30-minute roasting period, with thyme and parsley only. Add bay leaves and a teaspoon of well-crushed fennel with the onions. Chop any fennel fronds and add immediately before serving. Artichoke hearts (marinated, drained well), oregano, marjoram, parsley, all added after the first 30 minute roasting period. Carrots!
  19. A suggestion: After dinner, before (or while) cleaning up, pour about a cup of filtered water into the skillet and stir into it all the remaining sauce, over medium heat. Pour it off into a Mason jar and refrigerate or freeze (wide-mouth jar only, leaving plenty of room at the top if freezing) to put in your next pot of soup or to flavor your next pilaf. Simply delicious. ;o)
  20. If you're worried about pouring wine into your cast iron skillet, don't be. We don't add it until the pan has a fair bit of chicken fat and juices released by the onions, and we don't pour much in at a time. Your skillet and the sauce will both be just fine. ;o)

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