In Scout’s How to Cook Vancouver series, we will be striving to combine our addiction to dining out with our passion for cooking by challenging ourselves to make Vancouver’s best restaurant dishes in our own homes.
Is there a more perfect sight to hungrily behold than a chicken, plump and golden-brown, twirling lazily on a rotisserie pole, dripping rivulets of salty fat onto its comrades below? Homer Street Café & Bar thought not, earning themselves– at least in my heart – a spot among Vancouver’s more comforting, home-away-from-home restaurants (albeit one where the bar is unimaginably more sexy than anything you could possibly lean over in your own abode). Now imagine that there was a way to achieve the falling-apart tender, golden-skinned juiciness of a rotisserie chicken at home and all that was required was the willingness to exist in your own home while a chicken lolled away for a couple of hours in the oven, basting underneath it a batch of baby potatoes that had only ever known a life spent wallowing in warm chicken drippings.
This recipe – a Frankenstein made up of various chicken-cooking techniques patched together into a dedication to my favourite Vancouver restaurant meals – gives you an at-home variant on their rotisserie chicken and potatoes supper without need for any special equipment other than an oven and a sharp pair of scissors. My only fussy instruction is that you must let the chicken sit chilling in the fridge overnight so the dry rub can properly penetrate and suck the moisture out from the soon-to-be-crispy skin. Oh, also…the chicken is spatchcocked, which takes all of five minutes and just involves snipping out the backbone and letting the chicken roast with all skin exposed, providing the even browning of a rotisserie without the risk of losing your home in a tragic chicken-fat oven-fire incident.
This recipes serves two very hungry people or four people who are also expecting at least one more side…
3 ½ – 4 lb whole chicken
4 tsp kosher salt + more to season
1 ½ tsp very finely chopped rosemary (woody stems discarded)
½ tsp ground fennel
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper + more to season
¼ tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
Olive oil, to coat bird and potatoes
2 lb baby yellow-flesh potatoes (fingerlings would also work)
Optionally you can also have a few spoonfuls of dry white wine and heavy cream handy, if you wish to make a rich ‘jus’ from the chicken drippings
The night before serving, prepare the chicken and dry rub. For the chicken, you’ll want to have handy a strong, sharp pair of kitchen scissors. Turn the chicken over so you’re looking at the back (not the breasts). Place your scissors on one side of that knobby little “tail” at the base of the cavity and carefully cut up towards the neck. Repeat on the other side of the knob until you have effectively removed the chicken’s backbone, exposing its ribs and insides. Make sure the cavity is clean and empty. Turn the chicken over (breast-side up now) and use your weight to push down until you hear/feel a gentle crack in the breast bone. The chicken should lay open quite flat and all of the skin should be facing up. Make the dry rub by mixing together the 4 tbsp kosher salt, rosemary, fennel, coriander, ½ tsp pepper, and smoked paprika. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and massage the dry rub into the skin of the bird, saving some to also massage into the underside where the meat is exposed (use all of the rub). Set the chicken on a large plate and refrigerate overnight, uncovered.
The next day, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for about an hour prior to cooking. While the chicken sits, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (with a rack set in the top third) and halve the potatoes. Toss the potatoes with 2-3 tbsp olive oil, just to coat, and a very generous 3-finger pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet, leaving a chicken-sized gap right in the middle of the tray. Once the chicken has de-chilled, rub a tbsp or so of olive oil into the skin and set it (skin side up, obviously) on the baking sheet with the potatoes. Roast for 2 – 2 ½ hours total, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through cooking. Sometimes I baste the chicken a couple times while cooking, other times I leave the house and forget anything is happening in my oven at all. The only thing you need to do, about 30 – 45 minutes before pulling the chicken out, is carefully tip the baking sheet to drain most of the juices that have accumulated into a small bowl (this allows the potatoes to take on a bit more colour during their last bit of cooking). There will be no need to test the internal temperature of the chicken; just give one of the legs a pull – it should want to come right off with very little resistance.
Remove the chicken onto a wooden slab or cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before carving. You can cover the potatoes or let them sit in the (now off) oven to stay warm. If making jus, pour the reserved chicken juices into your smallest saucepan. Bring to a vigourous simmer over medium-high heat and let reduce down just slightly. Pour in a couple splashes of wine (I’m sorry, I can’t operationally define a ‘splash’ – just eye ball it) and let it cook until the liquid has reduced slightly more, ~2 minutes. Add a splash of heavy cream and bring back up to a simmer. You will have very little jus (probably less than ¼ cup), but this is fine as it is extremely concentrated and deliciously salty – you’ll only need droplets at a time. Carve the chicken into 8 pieces (or just carefully rip it apart, you can honestly tear the leg and thigh from each other with your hands; the wings come off like butter, too). Serve alongside warm potatoes and the jus you’re so happy you made.
Either way, I suggest you first try the chicken that inspired me…
ABOUT MACIEL PEREDA
Maciel was born in Vancouver and raised bilingually with a deeply instilled sense of East Side pride. She has persistently wondered “¿que hay para cenar?” (what’s for dinner?), and was ushered into the kitchen at a young age by her wonderfully patient grandmothers. She has a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from UBC and balances out the rewarding – yet taxing – demands of a healthcare career with a deep love of all things food. In 2017, she launched Some Like It Salty, a blog dedicated to her ongoing home cooking projects. In her spare time, she can be found purposefully strutting down Commercial Drive or staring mindlessly into the fridge while eating mayonnaise directly from the jar.