I came to the conclusion that some of the scariest cooking words are — together — these three: Butterflying a chicken. I’m not crazy either. I would put money down that most modern-day cooks have either never attempted the butterflying process… or they did… and were not too successful. Being that (like most people) I had never butterflied a chicken before… and being that when I tried I failed, I suppose I fit into both categories.
But again, I’m moving too quickly… Starting from the beginning: Episode 5, Season 1: “B & B Chicken”… which stands for “butterflied and broiled.” (Before I start though, my camera had a stroke. It was alive and kicking one minute, the next — gone. Needless to say, this will probably be a picture-less blog…)
As I wrote in my “I Hail To Thee, Caesar Salad” post, James and I gathered our ingredients and went to serve my parents a wonderful dinner. We had already made the salad (again, with scrumptious croutons), and were now ready to tackle the main portion of the meal — chicken. As of this application, I had yet to purchase so many ingredients — items ranging from parsley to celery to wine to a whole chicken; I love it… probably because I feel chef-like when mixing several different ingredients to form one huge dish.
So first things first, we got to use my newly purchased mortar and pestle to make the gremolata… which is just a super fancy word for zest-and-herb mixture. (Disclaimer: If you have to buy a mortar and pestle, ensure the inside is rough, not glazed… that way what you are grinding will grind better!) Grinding though is hard work… that does not pay off quickly. Finding it was nearly impossible for me to grind several little peppercorns, I called in James to do the rough work of making a paste.
Meanwhile, I moved onto the next steps — cutting all veggies (which cook under and beside the bird). Next, butterflying the chicken. Several times, I’d seen Alton butterfly birds on his shows… so I was thrilled to do something all chefs do with their eyes closed. …But here’s why I say butterflying is scary — Alton dedicated about half a page to very detailed instructions on how to butterfly. There are even pictures. One may think with such help this would be easy, but in fact it is hard. Really, really hard. Step one is removing the backbone… and I was already stuck. The bird is supposed to be breast-side down, and you’re supposed to put the knife inside the chicken… push on the chicken… which in turns pushes on the knife… which then cuts the backbone. And keep in mind, I did put the word “inside” in bold because the entire time you’re doing all this, you cannot see what you’re cutting!
Since I failed on the first freaking step, I asked James to take over… and sadly, he too failed. We both then proceeded to cut, twist, turn and beat (me — cuss insanely) at the chicken. I loathed chicken at that moment… and I love chicken. I cannot remember how long James and I played with that stupid bird until my mom (hearing the commotion) came into the kitchen. I had consistently told her we did not need help, but I finally gave in. She explained butterflying a chicken is very hard and takes practice. And when I said I needed to purchase 100 chickens to even learn how to remove a stupid backbone, she calmly (as mothers do) said the first time she did this, she had to get her mom to help her too. That made me feel better. Somewhat.
Needless to say, I didn’t butterfly a thing after that. My mom took over. I completely (no play on words) chickened out. She did ask (before every slice) if I wanted to do so-and-so step… but I declined. I was one, too angry at that chicken and two, in shock over her cooking skills. Let me say here, I’ve know for a long time my mom is an amazing cook; and as much as I praise Alton, I’ll continue to praise her 1,000-times over. Speaking alone of this butterflying experience, she expertly… slash chef-like… wielded that knife to slit and slice the bird so it was perfect… perfect meaning flat, because that’s all butterflying a chicken is — ensuring the bird is flat. (Yes, I realize this sounds easy, but I’m daring you — Try it!)
Everything resumed to normal after my mom stepped in, took over… then disappeared. We rubbed the gremolata over the bird and broiled it. I will add when it was time to take the chicken out of the oven… it was… purple. Kid you not. The most red-purple of purple. Of course it brought about a good few rounds of laughter, but we were all okay eating it since we understood the red wine had played its course on the chicken. Now I will say, if you are fixing this for someone who expects a “regular” looking chicken… this may not be the application for you; however, realize you (and your guest) will be missing out of some of the best chicken.
This bird was moist, fall-off-the-bone delicious, and my family devoured the whole thing. I don’t think there was a scrap left. Oh and the vegetables — they were practically all eaten too! (Alton says “Discard the veggies — they’ve given their all”… but he may well be wrong (WHAT am I saying?!). Those little guys still had quite a bit of flavor left and were equally well-cooked. In short on the vegetables, I would recommend try them first, then determine if they belong in the trash!
…There was the garlic thing too… Have I said before Alton loves garlic? That would be my only (slightly) negative about this application. When we ate the chicken, everyone raved about it… but the next day, everyone tasted and smelt like garlic. Thinking further, I’ve never had garlic “residue” so strong; it was unnaturally strong. I’d recommend cutting the garlic amount in half (even for those like me, who love garlic)… in fact, I may cut all of Alton’s garlic levels in half for the future.
Saying that though, James and I both want to make this again. This is an application I will continue to use and hopefully impress my guests with… the next possibly being his parents. I have to say, I’ve never gotten compliments on my cooking before, but since starting this “project,” I’ll learn little things that make me feel so successful. Examples: James’ mom said James adored this recipe… so much so that his family wants to try what the heck he keeps talking about! Another example: I fixed Alton’s “Mashers” for James’ parents, and his mom asked for the recipe! Asked me! Not only is this huge because my dream has been for someone to want a recipe of mine, but his mom is an incredible cook. (Footnote on his mom: Not only do I want to invite myself over all the time to eat when she cooks, but I find myself asking for every freaking recipe of hers! Oh, and need I say if she’s cooking, I eat things I normally wouldn’t consider — I just recently had roast (which falls under the “Don’t eat food’s I’ve thought a lot about” guideline; but when I heard she was fixing it, I didn’t even hesitate to go. End footnote.) It’s overwhelming sometimes to know how many people support me learning to cook — that they don’t mind being my guinea pig (namely James, who — how can I say it differently — is beyond amazing), and that they view my cooking as a treat, something extra-ordinary. I’ve never had this before. I’ve only dreamed of this… and I’m enternally grateful.