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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

 

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Did Jane Austen know Spatchcock Chicken?  A Heritage Recipe for Your Christmas Dinner

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ December 21, 2021

Looking for something different and easy that your family will love for Christmas dinner? Try this Regency-period method of preparing a super-succulent chicken.

“I’m so excited, Nana! I did something I’ve never done before—I made a spatchcock chicken,” my 15-year-old, budding Janeite granddaughter Felicity announced on our Facetime visit.

I asked her to repeat it three times, and I still wasn’t sure what she had done, until her timer sounded and I got to watch her pull this mouth-watering vision from the oven.

Of course, I requested she send me the recipe and immediately added roasting chicken to my shopping list.

But first, I needed to research this strange-sounding word. I couldn’t be cooking and eating something I didn’t understand.

I went to my favorite source, The OED which told me that the word “spatch-cock” was first used in 1785 in Ireland to describe “a dispatched cock…just killed from the roost, or yard, and immediately skinned, split, and broiled.”

The term was first used as a verb in mid-Victorian times by “Pall Mall” magazine: “Those who have never eaten spatchcocked grouse can hardly be said to know the real flavour of the bird.”

More modern tastes agree. My daughter wrote of Felicity’s culinary triumph: “It really was delicious—the fastest cooking whole chicken ever, with no 'rare-ish' dodgy bits (which I sometimes get, unless I totally over cook the whole thing) and it was so tender.”

As the introduction on the “Spoon Bacon” website, whose recipe we used, says, “This Spatchcock Chicken is the most delicious and juicy roast chicken you'll ever taste! The spatchcock method allows the chicken to cook faster, more evenly and results in crispier skin. You’ll never want to make roast chicken another way!”

I completely agree—as does my husband who relished the results of my first attempt. I won’t repeat the recipe, which you will find at the website linked above, but only explain that the key to the operation is cutting the backbone from a plump roasting chicken,

then laying it flat in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan before mixing butter and seasonings,

which you then rub between the meat and the skin.

Hence, the tender, juicy, flavorful meat. (The extra-brown bits on the skin are the result of my leaving leftover herbed butter in chunks on the skin--probably not recommended--but it tasted fine.)

From Felicity's picture, you can see that she added carrots to her pan.

Her advice: “My only recommendation for the carrots, since they are roasted at 450 degrees for 55 minutes, is to cut them in much bigger chunks. I sliced mine, and they mostly roasted to a crisp...! Chunky potatoes would be scrumptious as well!”

I followed the potato recommendation, adding them for the final half hour of roasting—which was perfect.

I would also add that the essential element to removing the backbone (which we then simmered with the giblets to make a broth) is having a good, heavy pair of kitchen scissors. The key to flattening the chicken by pushing down to break the breastbone seems to be having strong arms and hands—I wound up hacking at mine with a carving knife—which actually worked fine.

In a subsequent email Felicity added: "One tip for making the chicken lay flat without having to jump up and down on it, is to cut the skin away from the breast bone. This allows the bone to pop out a bit which makes it easier to flatten the bird. "

And she sent a link to this super video which demonstrates the process perfectly.

I recently received notice from Amazon that my long-awaited copy of Martha Lloyd’s Household Book by the marvelous expert in Regency cooking  Julienne Gehrer, containing  “The Original Manuscript from Jane Austen's Kitchen” is on it’s way to me. Sadly, until it arrives, I can only speculate on whether or not the Austen household at Chawton, where Martha Lloyd oversaw the cooking, would have known spatchcocked chicken.

However, it is great fun to speculate about the fact that spatchcock chicken was first known in Ireland and that Jane Austen’s brief romantic fling was with Tom LeFroy, to whom she referred as her “Irish friend.”

Could there be a connection?

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

Read More: Regency World

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Reader Comments:

It sounds delicious, and, oddly, we heard the term recently when a TV character was taking a cooking class, so we're delighted to learn what it means.
-SheilaDeeth, December 21, 2021

It seems to be making a much-deserved comeback, Sheila. Since posting this I have heard from other readers who say they have done it with great success.
-Donna, December 23, 2021

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