One of my favorite, most simple-yet-oh-so-versatile things to make and use when cooking chicken is a flavorful compound butter. Whether it is the whole bird, thighs, drumsticks, or the breast, any shmear of an aromatic butter just makes it better. And, sometimes, it is a really good way to get "rid" of extra herbs, spices, onions, garlic, or citrus you may have on hand.
The other night, I did a scan of what was in my fridge, and realized that it was probably best to use what I had on hand for a yummy butter to stuff under the skin of a local, sustainable chicken (about 4 pounds in weight) I had bought.
So, here's what I found....
* 2 sticks of butter
* 3 slices of prosciutto
* zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
* 4 cloves of garlic
* 1 shallot
* huge handful of fresh basil
* huge handful of fresh parsley
* sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Pretty good findings for a compound butter, I must say.
Though I have written plenty about my love of compound butters, I do continuously get asked, exactly, what is a compound butter? Basically, it is butter (salted or unsalted) that has been mixed with seasonings and other flavor agents (savory or sweet) to "enhance" the butter for whatever you may be using it for. Compound butters are used often to finish steaks or fish as a nice "garnish", but I think that they truly shine stuffed under the skin of chicken or turkey.
And in this case, the spotlight was on my chicken.
When making a compound butter, it's best to bring the butter to room temperature. You don't need to use a food processor, but I prefer to. If you don't have one on hand, make sure the butter is extremely soft and use a plastic spatula to fold all of the ingredients together.
Also, bring the chicken out and allow it to sit out of the chill of the fridge for about 20 minutes. This will help in adhering the butter under the skin as the chicken "meat" will not be too cold.
First, I roughly dice the prosciutto, shallots, garlic, parsley, and basil. All of this is going to take a "whir" in the food processor, so there is no need to over-chop the ingredients. (If you don't use a food processor, make sure to finely chop all of the ingredients.)
Add the soft, room temperature butter to the food processor with the lemon juice and grate the lemon zest - I find that zest just adds that extra citrus "punch".
Next, add the chopped ingredients to the butter:
Then, let the compound butter-making begin. Just let the food processor do the work, and, perhaps, grab a glass of wine (I'm just saying...).
You will probably have too much butter for one whole chicken, so go ahead and freeze the rest for another time.
Next up, the chicken. Using your fingers, begin to separate the skin from the breast meat, moving down over the drumsticks.
Using a spoon, begin to "stuff" the butter under the skin of the chicken, making sure to spread evenly all over the breast meat and drumsticks/thighs. I also like to use a little on the outside of the skin to give it flavor and help in the browning process.
I choose not to stuff the cavity with anything, but you could add lemons, onions, garlic, or more herbs before roasting the chicken.
I like to do this at least 24 hours before to let all of the flavors come together with the chicken, but you can just as easily cook the bird immediately. In any case, I preheat my oven to 450F. Place the chicken in a roasting pan on a roasting rack and bake in oven at 450F for about 25 minutes until skin begins to brown and crisp. Turn the oven temperature down to 350F and continue to roast for another 35-40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted between the breast and thigh reads 160-165F. Remove the bird from the oven and tent with foil for about 10 minutes - this will allow the juices to settle and the chicken to carry over a few degrees in temperature.
The aromas coming from the butter were intoxicating. It was pretty difficult to wait those 10 minutes while the chicken rested, but every second was worth the wait.
Continuing to "clean out" the fridge, my fellow foodie bff and I decided to throw a simple salad with avocado, maui onion, and pine nuts with a few garlic-rubbed crostinis on the side.
It was a fantastic, simple Sunday dinner, and the chicken was extremely moist and flavorful. The essence of basil and parsley perfumed the meat, and the hint of prosciutto added a nice richness to the whole meal. I even seared up some of the skin from the breast in a non-stick skillet, which added a fantastic, crispy, herby topping to an otherwise well rounded plate. And the best part (besides leftovers for days...) is the fact there is leftover butter in my freezer to do it all again soon.
Cheers and enjoy!