New England Fall Harvest Spatchcock Chicken with Root Vegetables
Every Friday night, I test a new sheet pan roasted chicken recipe.I was really missing the mark the past few weeks, but last night I developed something blog-worthy...the type of dish I can see myself making again and again. I usually just go with chicken thighs or leg quarters, but ever since I got the hang of spatchcocking (splaying) a chicken, I am much more excited about cooking a whole bird. It doesn't require trussing, turning, or basting; it cuts the cooking time significantly; and it produces nice crispy skin on the whole bird.
A few months ago, I decided to return to observing Shabbat dinner even though there are not many opportunities to celebrate socially. Even though it is often just my husband and me, I am always looking for ways to make hearty sheet pan Shabbat chicken meals so that, when we go back to having guests more regularly, I will have a whole new array of impressive tasting, easy-to-make dinner recipes. Sheet pan dinners are my favorite for hosting because they are so hands-off. You can play with and build on complex flavors in the sauces and marinading stage, but the actual roasted requires little more than shuffling around some vegetables.
This recipe is inspired by fall forest and harvest flavors. My initial iteration was far too heavy on the pine-y notes of rosemary and juniper, which overwhelmed the comforting taste of roasted chicken. This time, I tried to focus more on the sweet sour, fruity flavors of autumn, very much shaped by my upbringing in New England. I also took some inspiration from Italian mostarda (a sort of fruit and mustard candied chutney type condiment). You can adapt this recipe to your favorite sweet/sour fruits and root vegetables and still get an amazing result.
This recipe is for one whole ~3 lb chicken. You can easily double the fruit chutney recipe for larger amounts of chicken if you adjust the timing. You can also use bone-in skin-on chicken legs or thighs instead of a whole chicken, just cut the cooking time back to 40 minutes. If you don't have real maple syrup, just omit it. I have added it for the maple flavor, not for additional sweetness.
For the fruit chutney:
2-3 juniper berries
1 tsp whole peppercorns
3 allspice berries
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dried sour cherries (or substitute dried cranberries or red currents)
1 large pear or sweet apple, cored and chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/3 cup white white (optional)
1 tsp real maple syrup
For the sheet pan:
One whole 2-4 lb chicken
kosher salt (~1-2 tbsp)
1 fennel bulb
1.5-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey (only if some of your vegetables e.g. radishes are bitter)
one head of garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
about four cups of mixed chopped root vegetables—I used radishes, small potatoes, and carrots. I would also recommend parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, and/or parsley root.
Start by making the chutney. Crush the juniper berries, allspice, and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
Put a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in 1 tbsp olive oil.
Sauté the crushed spices, shallot, and pear/apple for a few minutes until they are wilted and soft.
Add the rest of the chutney ingredients plus a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. You want the result to be a thick, sticky paste. It should take about 30 minutes. If the contents get too dry, pour more water into the saucepan. It is done when the pear/apple yields to the pressure of a fork.
Remove the chutney from the heat. Crush everything with a fork. It should still have some texture to it but nothing hard or lumpy.
Spatchcock the chicken. This is quite easy to do—just cut on either side of the spine, leaving the skin intact. Remove the spine. Flip the chicken over and press down (you make hear a cracking noise) to splay it.
Run your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the flesh. Rub the cavity of the chicken and under-the-skin areas with Kosher salt. If the chutney is still cooling, return the chicken to the refrigerator.
When the chutney is cooled, rub a bit of it between the skin and flesh. Then rub the rest on the cavity and exterior of the chicken skin. Let sit at room temperature for up to an hour or in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. If you let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator, let it sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Toss the fennel, garlic, and root vegetables with the olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and the honey (if using).
Put the chicken on the sheet pan, skin side up.
Scatter the root vegetables around the chicken.
Cook at 450ºF for 40-50 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Halfway through, remove the sheet pan from the oven to toss the vegetables around so that they cook evenly.