Hugh Griffin is on the cusp of a secret that will change the path of John Welles’s life forever. The unspoken shared knowledge exists between Hugh and his daughter, Garland, who John loves dearly. The once competitive pair has become quite close although for different reasons. Their relationship reaches its pinnacle in the summer of 1929 when she invites him to her home to visit her father, Hugh.
The retired Lutheran pastor welcomes his daughter and her boyfriend with abundant graciousness. Hugh is the type of man who lives a simple life with excellence. His cooking is homey, delicious, and prepared with love. For the special meal, he takes a little extra time with the otherwise ordinary dish of roasted chicken.
The following recipe is the one I had in mind for Hugh to prepare when John and Garland visited. The extra steps of spatchcocking and marinating the chicken are simple and go a long way to making the humble roast chicken juicy and tender. Besides, half the fun of spatchcocking a chicken is saying the word spatchcock. While I could describe this process to you, it’s much simpler to direct you to a website on Spatchcocking a Chicken. Once you’ve spatchcocked your chicken, proceed with the following recipe.
1 4-pound chicken, spatchcocked
2 c buttermilk
¼ c plus 2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T ground peppercorns (I used quad-colored peppercorns)
1 T sea salt
2 T rosemary
1 T honey
Mix the buttermilk, ¼ c olive oil, garlic, pepper, sea salt, rosemary, and honey in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the spatchcocked chicken in a baking dish to be covered with plastic wrap or place the marinade and chicken in a freezer bag and seal tightly. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a rack so the excess can drip off. Prepare the seasonings mixture.
6 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into six squares
1 t sea salt
¼ t oregano
¼ t thyme
¼ t paprika
¼ t ground peppercorns (Again, I used the quad-colored variety)
Combine the spices and salt. Dip one side of the cold squares of butter in the seasoning mixture and shove four beneath the skin across the breast of the chicken and one each beneath the skin over the thigh/drumstick area. Drizzle the chicken with remaining 2 T olive oil and sprinkle any remaining seasoning mixture across the skin of the chicken.
Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan or baking dish. Tuck the wing tips beneath the chicken. Roast for 45 minutes then reduce heat to 325° F. Baste the chicken and continue roasting until well browned and until juices run clear when chicken is pierced where leg joins thigh, about another 20 minutes. Baste again when done roasting.
Place chicken on a carving board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Place a portion on each of four plates, and drizzle each serving with pan juices.