Spatchcock you ask? According to the Oxford Companion to Food, “spatchcock is a culinary term found in cookery books of the 18th and 19th centuries, and revived towards the end of the 20th century. It is said to be of Irish origin. The theory is that the word is an abbreviation of ‘dispatch cock’, a phrase used to indicate a way of grilling a bird after splitting it open down the back and spreading the two halves out flat.” Sounds a bit gross but by removing the backbone you actually decrease the cooking time, the bird cooks evenly, and the skin is crispy all over – nothing I detest more than soggy chicken skin. Spatchcock a cornish hen, chicken or turkey.
If you’re like me, I’m not so good at ‘cleaning’ meat, fish or poultry I am about to eat. I have no issue trimming fat off, however, anything more and I need the help of a butcher or fish monger. That said, I had two cornish hens I wanted to cook. The weather has been nice of late and roasting in the oven just seemed wrong so I decided I would spatchcock the cornish hens. At just over 2-pounds, they would be small enough for me to perform the task without grossing myself out. There are plenty of videos on the web to help learn how to spatchcock a chicken and this one from BBC Good Food is less than 2-minutes. After watching the video, I felt confident I was up for the task.
To start, grab kitchen shears or a sharp knife. I used all-purpose kitchen scissors.
Place hen or chicken breast-side down and cut along one side of the backbone. Repeat with the other side. Don’t discard the backbone as you can use it later for stock.
Flip the bird over and using the palm of your hand, press down on the breastbone. Use your muscles for this and you’ll hear a snap. Presto, you have now spatchcocked! To barbecue the cornish hen, cook over a medium heat 20 to 25 minutes (turning halfway).
The Culinary Chase’s Note: Remove wing tips if barbecuing as they tend to burn easily. If using an oven, preheat to 425f and roast cornish hens 40 to 50 minutes or until thickest part of breast reaches 165 degrees, allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!