Lemon-Basil Butterflied Chicken with Baked Rice

Lemon-Basil Butterflied Chicken with Baked Rice

My laptop is back on my desk, where it belongs, and all is right with the world. Now, let’s get back to posting about food, shall we?

This is one of those much-easier-than-it-looks dinners. Harry’s had a bit of an upset stomach lately, so I wanted something plain enough for him but still interesting enough for me and Stephen. The obvious choice: Chicken and white rice. For the chicken, I turned once again to The Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry, which always has something interesting to offer. I knew I wanted to butterfly a whole chicken, but beyond that I wasn’t sure which direction to go. A quick browse yielded a sautéed dish with lemon and basil, always a winning combo in my book. I’d never tried to sauté a whole chicken before, so the chance to learn a new technique really sealed the deal.

Turns out, this is almost easier than roasting! You season the chicken and put it in a large skillet, skin side down. Weight it with a large pan filled with water (I used a Le Creuset 5-quart Dutch oven) and walk away for a while. Come back, flip the bird over, weight it down again, and go check your email. When it’s done, use the pan drippings to make a wonderfully piquant sauce. The whole thing took about 45 minutes, from the time I pulled the chicken from the fridge. The rice (and a cast-iron skillet of roasted carrots) cooked in the oven at the same time. Sure, I made it on a Sunday night, but this one could easily be pulled off on a weeknight too. Definitely going into regular rotation.

Oh, one more thing: Don’t forget to save the carcass! I put it straight into my slow cooker and made Overnight Chicken Soup. Together with the leftover rice, I’ve got tonight’s dinner already done.

Sautéed Butterflied Chicken with Lemon-Basil Sauce
Adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry
Serves 4

2 medium garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons minced basil leaves, divided
1 3- to 3½-pound chicken, butterflied (see instructions here)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (approx ½ lemon)
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter

On your cutting board, sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt over the minced garlic. Use the side of your knife to mash it into a paste, then put into a small bowl with 1 tablespoon minced basil and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix well, and stuff under the skin of your butterflied chicken, then sprinkle skin with additional salt & pepper. Let this sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld.

Heat the oil in your largest skillet (make sure the chicken will fit before you start!) over medium-high heat. While it’s heating, cover the bottom of a heavy pot just smaller than the skillet with aluminum foil—use enough to reach up and over the wall of the pot, otherwise it’ll slip off. Fill halfway with water, cover, and set aside.

Add the chicken to the skillet, skin side down, and place the prepared pot over it to weight it down. Lower the flame only slightly—you want to keep it at a steady medium—and cook until skin is nicely browned, about 12 minutes. Remove the pot, turn the chicken skin side up, and replace the pot on top. Continue cooking until the juices run clear, 18-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover with foil [I re-used the foil from the bottom of the Dutch oven].

Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet and return to the burner; increase heat to medium-high. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and broth and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and the butter. Carve chicken and serve sauce alongside.

Baked White Rice
Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil in a 1-quart, ovenproof saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (put a layer of aluminum foil underneath the lid if yours isn’t quite snug). Add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently, until rice begins to brown. Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil [I use the microwave]. Pour the broth into the saucepan, and be careful because this will bubble up furiously. Cover and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Let it sit, covered, for a few minutes before serving.