We all need some simple, restorative nourishment at times and for me this dish has it in bucketfuls whether you decide to eat it as simply Chicken & Greens or crank up the dial and dish it up with a some of the buttery, umami rich roasting juices and a simple broth ladled over the top, served as a ‘soup’.
Before getting into the detail here, thanks has to go to the always inspirational Nigel Slater for the main foundation on which this dish is built; I stumbled across his braised lettuce dish by happy coincidence whilst having my morning coffee on a Sunday with the tv on in the background, a clip of Nigel’s show ‘Simple Suppers’ came on and I was instantly sold.
For the greens, all you’ll need is six ingredients: butter, gem lettuce, spring onions, peas and vegetable stock and feta cheese to crumble on at the end. I’ve omitted Broad Beans from the original recipe as these still bring back memories of school dinners in full force overcooked grey mushy horror!
Whilst I do actually eat them these days, they aren’t an instant ‘must have’ item in my food choice repertoire…
Now to the bird. You could happily use left over roast chicken for this dish as it could simply be used sliced cold or shredded and popped into some of the broth a few minutes before the end to warm through if you prefer. As I made this dish on a weeknight after work, I needed a quick solution to finding crispy skin and perfectly cooked meat with spatchcock being the answer, producing a perfect result in under 45 minutes! This is pretty much how I now choose to do roast chicken every time these days.
Snipping out the backbone of a chicken, this might provoke a slight wince at the thought of however I assure you its really not too bad and is pretty easy once you’ve got the nack. You can also pick up a ready spatchcocked chicken from your butcher or even some of the high-street supermarkets, perfect then if you fancy making this as a quick weeknight supper. Once its ready, I like to make a seasoned butter to rub all over and also ease some into the pocket under the skin on the breast meat before cooking – this will help to create that lovely browned crispness and a still ensure beautifully moist meat within.
Whereas boiled lettuce may cause many of you to wince at the thought with horror and images of a bowl of grey mush springing to mind, this dish is so far from that so you can happily banish it from your mind.
- Preheat over to 200ºC and put a cast iron skillet in to warm up. Then start by preparing the chicken, laying it breast side down on a chopping board and use your fingers to run down the back to locate where the bone ends and rib cage starts. Either using a sharp knife or some heavy duty kitchen scissors (designed for this purpose), start at wing end and cut down through the side of the spine one each side to remove it.
- Flip the now spatchcock chicken over and using the palm of both hands, push down firmly on the bird to flatten it until you feel a crack, helping you lay it out flat. Pull each leg out to extend and again push down from above to crack the joints. Repeat with the wings.
- Seasoned butter, one of my absolute favourites has to be miso butter. You can pretty much go to town here and be as experimental as you like with favourite flavours (within the realms of reality) or keep it simple and stick to the classics. Take 4Tbsp of room temperature butter and cream together with 2Tbsp of miso paste in a bowl before spooning some into the pocket under the skin of the breast (spread it out and massage into the meat) and also rubbing over the bird, make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies!
- Remember to use oven gloves! Take the skillet out the now warm oven and lay the chicken in it skin side down to begin with as the heat from the pan will work wonders to crisp up the skin and kickstart the cooking process. Back into the oven and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes before turning oven for the remaining 30 minutes.
- As the chicken cooks, remove any outer leaves before slicing the baby gems in half then set aside for a moment as you heat a thick slice of butter in a deep (lidded) sauté pan.
- Now the choice is yours here, either place the lettuce cut side down in the hot butter and leave to cook for a few minutes, then taking out and setting aside for a moment. Starting off the gem this way will produce a lovely caramelised charr and give you the most incredible flavours. Alternatively, allow butter to foam and then add the roughly cut spring onions to cook for a few minutes before adding lettuce, stock and seasoning with salt & pepper. Bring to the boil before lidding and then reducing heat, allowing the dish to simmer for 15 minutes before tossing the peas in a few minutes before the end so they keep their verdant green pop of colour and delicate flavour.
- Another final decision making process here….. Carve up the chicken, plate up and serve with the greens on the side and maybe some baby new potatoes for a clean, paired back take on a roast dinner. Alternatively, spoon the lettuce, peas and spring onion into a bowl, scatter with crumbled feta and top with shredded meat and a crispy wing. Ladle the stock into a small pan, pour in some of miso laden buttery juices from the skillet and bring back to the boil before pouring over a generous amount and tucking int to this as ‘Chicken and greens (soup)’