Butterflied and Brined Roasted Chicken

This is one of those recipes that, no matter how many times I make it, I never get sick of. Inevitably, pictures of the perfectly roasted bird end up on my Facebook pages and Instagram. I am not ashamed. 
Originally, I was inspired by Nom Nom Paleo‘s “Easiest Roast Chicken Ever*”, which (if you have access to a Trader Joe’s) means an amazing roast chicken dinner on the table in about an hour. Since I didn’t and still don’t have access to Trader Joe’s (and their amazing pre-brined chickens), I had to make do on my own for the chicken-prep part.
(*If you do have access to a Trader Joe’s, hop on over to the site linked above. You are in for a quality recipe and some beautiful pictures.)One glance at the available recipes online (ahem, Paula Deen), and it was enough for me to steer clear of any pre-made recipe (although I’m sure there are other great ones out there). I wanted the brine to be strong enough to work in 30 minutes, but not enough that the salt or pickling spices would overpower the chicken. Keep reading to find out how I solved that problem!Ingredients
1 4-5lb chicken
1/3 (rounded) cup sea salt, or more, if you’re a salt lover
1-2tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp pickling spices
2-3 bay leaves
8 cups water
4-5 cups of tough/root vegetables of your choice (leeks, carrots, onions, potatoes), roughly chopped
2-4tbsp butter, softened

First, prepare your brine. Throw all of the brine ingredients (sea salt through water, above) into a large stock pot (it will need to hold the water and your chicken), and stir well to combine. The salt will begin to dissolve as you prep the chicken.

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Some folks like to simmer the brine first, to ensure that all of the salt has dissolved, but I’ve done it both ways and never had an issue with either one.
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Next, you’re going to need to know how to butterfly the bird. This ensures that it will cook quickly and evenly (that, plus the brine, means fully cooked white and dark meat that’s still super tender).
To begin, pat your bird dry (health/microbiology note: Don’t rinse first! You’re significantly increasing the spread of surface bacteria around your kitchen, even if you don’t see the water splash. Here‘s a great NPR article on this, thanks to my friend Chad.)
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Step 1. Lay your (now dry) bird on a cutting board (or other easy-to-clean surface, since chickens carry Salmonella spp.), breast side down. Locate the tail– the backbone runs along the top of the chicken, starting at this point. We’ll be cuttingout the backbone, so the chicken will lay flat.
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Step 2: Take a strong, sharp pair of kitchen shears and use them to cut from the tail end (I find this the easiest way, but whichever works for you) along the backbone, all the way through. Like so:
Also: BE CAREFUL! Chicken bones are sharp and obviously this guy contains bacteria, so be sure not to cut yourself. If you do, wash your hands really well with some antibacterial soap. Probably twice.
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Then, repeat on the other side. Feel free to turn the chicken around to cut from the other direction, if that’s easier for you (we almost always do).
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Once the backbone has been removed (great to save for stocks or soups, if you’re into that kind of thing), the chicken should open partway, almost like a book.
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Step 3: Now, we want to cut the cartilage near the neck area, so the chicken will open up all of the way and lay flat. Part of what is keeping the shape of the bird is a structure called the keel bone (which, unsurprisingly, looks like the keel of a boat). Locate the keel bone, and take a sharp knife…
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…which you will use to cut the top ~1 inch of cartilage, starting at the neck region. This will separate the breast meat and allow the chicken to lay flat.
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Step 4. Use your hands to open the chicken like a book. You may have to use a little force, as we’re going to separate the cartilage in this step.
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Optional step: Using a sharp paring knife, carefully remove the keel bone. Some folks like to do this, and I definitely do (unless I’m feeling lazy)! This won’t affect the cooking time or flavor of the chicken, but this is what you’d normally cut the breast meat off of. Without the keel bone, there are no bones keeping you from white meat bliss after this baby is done cooking!
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Step 5. Put your chicken in the brine at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
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Step 6. While your bird is brining, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Then, prep and roughly chop your favorite root vegetables, and throw them into a baking pan (that will also fit your chicken).
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If you’re feeling especially decadent, add some pats of butter to the top of the veggies (or toss with your favorite cooking oil). Kerrygold is arguably the best butter, ever.
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Step 7. Once the chicken has finished brining, remove it from the brine and rinse. (I know, I know… I just told you not to rinse. However, it’s pretty terrible biting down on a fresh peppercorn or other pickling spice while you’re trying to eat roasted chicken, so we need to do this to remove the brine ‘debris’. Just be sure to clean your sink and surrounding area really well afterwards.)
Pat the bird dry, and rub down with a generous coat of softened butter or your favorite cooking oil (both sides).
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Step 8. Place the chicken breast-side down on the tray of vegetables, and make sure it fits within the tray.
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Step 9. I like to roast butterflied chicken as follows:
45 minutes, breast side down
15 minutes, breast side up
 (It’s helpful to use tongs for the flipping step.)
broil, 2-5 minutes, breast side up

…What you end up with is tender, juicy chicken, with a crunchy, golden skin on top…
Like this!
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Step 10. Tent the chicken in tinfoil for 15-20 minutes.
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Step 11. Then serve up alongside the vegetables you just roasted under the chicken! Delicious.
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Here’s what my dinner plate looked like:
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Enjoy, and thanks for reading!
– Kaitlin
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