To learn more about this recipe, read the related story, "A Salt and Battery".
Roast Chicken with Tomatillo Salsa and Cotija Cheese
Recipe adapted from Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 30 minutes (plus 8 hours for the chicken to air-dry and 2 hours for the salsa to marinate)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground coriander
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
One 3 ½-pound chicken*
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1 small jalapeño
½ pound tomatillos (about 8 small), husked and rinsed
⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Season the chicken: In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, cloves, coriander and cumin. On a cutting board, place the chicken breast-side down. Using poultry shears, snip along one side of the backbone, starting at the cavity side and working your way to the neck. Repeat on the other side and remove the backbone. Flip the chicken over and cut through the center of the breast plate to separate the chicken into two halves. Season all sides of the chicken with the spice blend, using slightly more of the spice blend on the leg and thigh. Refrigerate, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight.
2. Make the salsa: In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Halve the jalapeño, then add the tomatillos and one half of the jalapeño and simmer until the tomatillos are bright green and the skins are beginning to crack, about 4 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer the tomatillos and half of the jalapeño to a blender. Blend until slightly rough and chunky. Add the cilantro, lime juice, oil and a pinch of salt and blend to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, and the other jalapeño half to make it spicier if you like. Pour the salsa into a small bowl and set aside for 2 hours (or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days).
3. Make the chicken: Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and middle positions. Preheat the oven to 500°. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit out at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (about as long as it takes for the oven to heat).
4. Pour the 2 teaspoons vegetable oil into a small bowl and use a silicone brush or natural-bristle pastry brush to lightly coat both sides of the chicken with oil. Set the chicken skin side up on an aluminum-foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the middle rack for 10 minutes. Use tongs to turn the chicken halves over and cook until the chicken juices run clear at the leg/thigh joint and the chicken breast reads 150° to 155° on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes longer.
5. Heat the broiler to high and move the chicken to the upper-middle rack. Turn the chicken skin side up and broil until the skin is browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes (watch the broiler closely, as broiler intensities vary). Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes.
6. To serve, remove the leg from the breast and separate the drumstick from the thigh. Serve the breast meat on the bone or remove the meat from the bone and slice crosswise into 3 to 4 pieces. Place the chicken on a platter and crumble ¼ cup cotija cheese over the chicken. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve with the remaining ¼ cup cotija and the salsa on the side. Calories per Serving: 622; Sodium: 1,290mg; Total Carbohydrate: 5g; Fiber: 1g; Fat: 44g
*Test Kitchen note: Removing the backbone from a chicken is easy if you have a cleaver or poultry shears. If you don't, ask your butcher to remove the backbone ("spatchcocking" the chicken) and halve the chicken through the breast plate.