Let me begin by apologizing for the long lapse in posting to this website. As many of you can relate, work, family, and other obligations got the best of me in the latter part of 2016/early 2017. Also, we decided to completely change up our diet and try out this whole “paleo” concept. More so than anything, I needed time to develop some recipes that not only adhered to the parameters of paleo, but also tasted great. I am happy to report that my Paleo Spatchcock Chicken with Sweet Potato Stuffing fits the bill nicely and is the perfect comfort food for these lingering dreary days of winter. (I thought it was supposed to be springtime – what happened??!!)
For those of you who don’t know what defines the paleo diet, it is basically eating the way a caveman would have back in Paleolithic times (plus some additional restrictions) in order to reduce inflammation throughout your body. Many of the foods available to us today may taste delicious, but can cause reactions in our body that are less than pleasant. (I’m looking directly at you Wheat, Cheese and Dairy…) In a nutshell, you must cut out the following items to be “paleo”: wheat, dairy, refined sugar, corn, legumes (including peanuts), rice, and regular potatoes. There are few “fringe” foods that the experts can’t agree upon, so it’s up to you to decide how strict you want to be. These foods are wine, dark chocolate, coffee, butter/ghee, and bacon. Obviously, this is a super basic outline, so if you are interested in reading up on this diet, here is a great resource: http://paleoleap.com/paleo-101/. Essentially, paleo eating is gluten and dairy free, so it hits a lot of the food trends you see lately. I have to admit that I feel so much better since we changed our diet, and I am also super excited to say that I have lost about 8 pounds and Rob has lost 15! That’s pretty darn great considering that we didn’t do anything else, like exercise… (Hey, don’t judge. It was the holidays!) Now, the obvious question is: Will I only be posting paleo recipes on Mixed and Mashed moving forward…? No. I firmly believe that cheat days are necessary for one’s sanity. Therefore, you can expect to see a healthy mix of paleo and non-paleo recipes here in the future.
Anyway…..on to the recipe. Caught in an overwhelming fit of craving breaded Thanksgiving stuffing (paleo does that to a person), I tried to think of a paleo-friendly way to satisfy my comfort food needs. Sweet potatoes have become a fixture in our home since making this diet change and they seemed like the best possible substitution for bread. Add in some savory sausage and tangy apples alongside a smattering of herbs and aromatics, and I feel like I have a winner. It was when I decided to actually cook the chicken ON TOP of this faux stuffing and let all of the butter and chicken-y juices seep into the sausage and potatoes that I was in food heaven. (Side note: You will notice a lot of liquid accumulate in your roasting pan from the butter and chicken drippings, so make sure to use a slotted spoon when serving the stuffing; otherwise, you will have a gloppy mess on your plate.)
Some of you may not know what spatchcocking a chicken entails. Basically, all you do is cut the backbone out of the chicken so that it can spread out and lay flatter on the roasting pan in order to cook more evenly. This prevents the breast meat from drying out while you wait for the thighs and legs to come up to temperature (sadly a very common occurrence when roasting poultry…) All you need is a good set of kitchen shears and you are just a few simple steps away from a delicious, juicy chicken dinner. I explain the whole process below in more detail, so don’t be intimidated!
Seriously, I have made the Paleo Spatchcock Chicken with Sweet Potato Stuffing a few times a month since late October – this is definitely a household favorite!
Paleo Spatchcock Chicken with Sweet Potato Stuffing
- 1 lb breakfast sausage
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup golden raisins or fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary, divided
- 3 tablespoons diced sage, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs), giblets removed and skin patted dry
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Special tools: Kitchen shears
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees with the rack placed in the middle.
- Heat a large skillet (at least 12″ in diameter) over medium high heat. Place the breakfast sausage in the skillet and break into small pieces as it cooks. When the sausage is almost cooked through, add the sweet potatoes, apples, shallots, and garlic. Sprinkle the sweet potato mixture with 2 tablespoons each of the rosemary and sage and two teaspoons of the dried thyme. Gently stir to evenly distribute the seasonings. The skillet will be very, very full, so be gentle. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the sweet potatoes just barely begin to soften, then remove from heat. Pour into a deep sided, 9” x 12” roasting pan and spread evenly. Set aside.
- Place the softened butter in a small bowl and add the remaining rosemary and sage. Mix it together with a spoon and set aside.
- Place the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Using your kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along one side of the bone beginning at the thigh end and continuing all the way up to the neck.
- Repeat on the other side until the backbone is separate from the rest of the chicken. (Some people like to rotate the chicken 180 degrees before beginning with the second cut. This way you start at the neck and can hold the loose backbone with your left hand as you cut with your right.)
- Discard the backbone once removed.
- Flip the chicken over so that the skin side is facing up and spread the cavity open as far as possible. Press down firmly on the breastbone until you hear a crack. Congratulations – you have just spatchcocked a chicken!
- Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the chicken. Spread half of the butter mixture directly on the chicken meat underneath the skin and the other half all over the top of the skin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the spatchcocked chicken in the roasting pan directly on top of the “stuffing” mixture. Make sure you spread open the bird from the removed spine area so that it is almost completely flat. Tuck the wings under the breasts and adjust the legs so that the drumsticks face inward.
- Place in the oven and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees (please use a meat thermometer!) This typically takes me about 1 hour, but check periodically since all ovens vary widely. Also, keep an eye on your bird to prevent any browned spots from forming. If you notice that the skin is starting to burn, loosely tent the chicken with foil until the meat reaches 165 degrees.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully move the cooked chicken to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
- Using a slotted serving spoon, lift a serving of the sweet potato stuffing mixture and allow some of the excess liquid to drip out before placing it on the plate. Serve the carved chicken alongside the stuffing and enjoy!