Everyone needs a go-to roasted chicken recipe. Spatchcocking is the best way to cook chicken at home because the chicken cooks so evenly, and fairly quickly too. Normally, I like roasting the chicken on a rack, but this method of cooking the bird over the peppers is insanely delicious and they steal the show!
Technique tips: If you opt to use spicy peppers, wear gloves when you're seeding and chopping them. A spatchcocked chicken has had its backbone removed so it can lie flat; it makes for more even cooking than a whole bird. You can often buy spatchcocked chicken at markets, or you can ask you butcher to do it for you. The other option is doing it yourself, which is pretty easy if you have a set of sturdy poultry shears and a sharp knife. To do so, place a few paper towels on a large cutting board to help steady the bird and absorb excess liquid. Set the chicken on the board breast side down, with the legs facing toward you. Using a pair of kitchen or poultry shears, cut alongside the backbone, between the backbone and the thighs. Repeat on the other side of the backbone to remove it; freeze the backbone for making stock. Then, using a heavy, sharp knife, split or crack the breastbone slightly from inside the cavity, being careful to not cut through to the breast meat. Flip the chicken over and gently push down on the breast with your hands, flattening the bird. Tuck the wing tips back behind the breast. Your chicken is now ready to roast beautifully!
Swap options: In lieu of a spatchcocked chicken, you can swap in bone-in thighs or chicken breasts. When it comes to the peppers in this dish, I like using a fun and colorful mix of sweet and spicy — it's a great time to go crazy at the farmers' market in the summer! Look beyond just bell peppers — try Cubanelle, banana peppers, Hungarian wax, Melrose, Hatch green chiles, just to name a few. If you are just not keen on a spatchcocked bird, you can also use any combination of chicken parts you like or a split chicken. My only tip is to get pieces that are relatively the same size so the chicken cooks evenly.
- 1 (3½-to 4-pound) whole chicken, spatchcocked
- kosher salt
- 2 heads garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds mixed sweet peppers, seeded and cut into quarters or slices about 2 inches thick
- 1 cup whole pickled pepperoncini peppers
- 1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons lightly chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tablespoons lightly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 loaf crusty bread, warmed
Set the chicken on a large baking sheet and season all over with salt (I use 1½ to 2 teaspoons). Let the chicken sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.2.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a sharp knife, slice off the tapered end from each head of garlic, exposing the little cloves. Set both heads of garlic on a sheet of foil, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and season with salt. Wrap in the foil. Roast for 1 hour (perfect timing for the chicken to marinate). Remove the garlic from the oven and let cool.3.
Increase the oven temperature to 450 F. Place a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 10 minutes to heat. In a large bowl, combine the peppers, pepperoncini, tomatoes, oregano, fennel seeds and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with a few generous pinches of salt and toss well. Carefully add the pepper mixture to the hot skillet in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes to let the peppers and tomatoes begin searing and roasting.4.
Meanwhile, rub the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil into the chicken skin. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and place the chicken skin side up on top of the roasting peppers. Place back in the oven and roast for 30 minutes (you are forcing the peppers to break down while the drippings and juices from the chicken stew them).5.
While the chicken roasts, squeeze the roasted garlic from the heads into a small bowl. Add the rosemary, parsley and lemon zest and juice. Remove the chicken from the oven. Carefully tilt the pan and, using a small ladle or spoon, collect 1/4 cup or so of the pan juices. Mix the pan juices with the roasted garlic–herb mixture, then carefully schmear it all over the chicken and around the pan. Place the skillet back in the oven for 15 minutes longer to allow the herb mixture to melt into the chicken skin. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest in the skillet for 10 minutes.6.
To serve, carefully transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, separate the leg quarters from the bird and split the thighs and legs. Carefully remove the chicken breast and wings from the bones and slice. Nestle the sliced chicken breast into the pan with the peppers and place the bone-in thighs, legs and wing pieces alongside the breast. Serve with warm crusty bread to soak up all the yumminess.