My time had finally come. It was time to try my hand at cutting up a whole chicken. I had recently seen these beautiful fresh whole chickens in the store, and I decided I would finally try to deal with a whole chicken. So I did it. I bought the thing. We were having company over so I thought I should make something nice and impressive. Figs! Ah yes. They are in season and were looking ever so gorgeous at the store. Yes, I would put together an impressive dinner of personally deconstructed roasted chicken topped with figs (who wouldn’t be impressed?!) and bacon (who doesn’t love bacon?).
So, considering I haven’t actually ever seen anyone do the whole deboning/cutting it up thing except for Meryl Streep on Julie and Julia…I thought it best to go to the ever reliable youtube. I followed this tutorial from Gourmet. I shouldn’t have gone any further when “Baldy” started ripping apart an awkwardly yellow chicken. Something was seriously wrong with the thing. It was like mustard yellow. But no, I soldiered on to battle my bird.
What was to follow was shameful. The adventure began as I picked the thing up. I actually screamed out loud as I touched the funky skin. Remember, I have a weird thing about chicken skin. Ew. Then I tried following Mr. Baldy-Ian, as he explained to me how “simple” the process was and how “clear” the lines of the bird really are. Oh shut up, Ian.
I battled that bird in a fit of rage and laughter (which felt weird cuz I was home alone with my cat and the bird…aaaand was laughing like a psychotic butcher). What resulted was something not so pretty. The easy to find cavities did not exist. The clear line of fat between the muscles could not be found because I could not find the cavity to cut along. At one point I found myself cutting through bone which I’m pretty sure is against the rules. And the “very easy to find” breastbone, that Ian so clearly pointed out, was not really anywhere to be found. This chicken must have been internally deformed, poor thing. I was digging. I was literally hacking and digging my way through the sad, distressed chest-o-bird. Eventually, I found the thing but the chicken breasts ended up being incredibly lopsided. Sorry bout that, dear hen.
What resulted from this process was nothing short of ugly… BUT I DID NOT GIVE UP! No, I carried on ’til the job was done. Somehow, one breast came out with only a sliver of skin… not sure how that happened… BUT I made it through alive and with only a bit of chicken skin in my hair. Sweet success. But, a word of advice. Never consult Ian for butchering guidance. Just ask your grandma.
Figs, figs, figs. There is just no prettier fruit. I have never really cooked with them and the extent of my exposure to figs was singing, “now bring me some figgy pudding”. But lately, they’ve just been calling to me whenever I pass them at the grocery store. I came across a recipe in one of my old issues of Gourmet Magazine for “Figgy Piggy Cornish Hens”. I figured I could change it up a bit and easily use my chicken. What came out was nothing short of decadent. The sweetness of the figs and the saltiness of the bacon complimented each other perfectly. It was the sort of dish where I just had to put each ingredient on my fork to ensure I could truly appreciate the simple perfection of each bite. This dish was fancy, fabulous, and even pretty… since I could cover all the ugly chicken parts with figs and bacon. Success.
Adapted from Gourmet (September 2009).
1/2 lb bacon slices, halved
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 whole chicken, divided into parts
12 thyme sprigs
12 fresh black and/or green figs, halved
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack in the upper third of the oven.
2. Cook bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add garlic to the skillet and cook in the bacon grease until golden, 1 minute.
3. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat fat in the skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to smoke. Brown the chicken sections, skin side down for about 6 minutes. Transfer, skin side up, to a large sheet pan. Reserve the skillet.
4. Scatter thyme and figs over the chicken and roast them until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, deglaze the skillet with lemon juice by simmering, stirring and scraping the brown bits, 30 seconds. Pour the sauce over the roasted chicken. Scatter the bacon and garlic over the chicken and serve.