There aren’t a whole lot of cooking techniques that can send the cook into gales of giggles, but spatchcocking is certainly one of them. It’s a straightforward and simple technique: you snip out the backbone of the chicken with some good poultry shears, lean hard on the breastbone to flatten the poor bird, and voila, you can grill a fabulous chicken with no further ado. But why do we call that spatchcocking?
I’d probably have a hard time pronouncing that with a straight face, if I hadn’t once had, and I swear this is true, a client called Jack Mycock. And if you think apologizing to a dead chicken for submitting her to such an indignity is rough, just try asking the receptionist to put you through to your unfortunately-named client without giggling. But after a while I got used to it, and the long-suffering receptionist had undoubtedly gotten over it long ago, so when it came to discovering spatchcocking I was good to go.
Explanations abound, the Internet being boundless. Wikipedia says you can call it spattlecock, which, to me, sounds even less appetizing, spattle being such a close relative of spittle. There’s a notion that it comes from “dispatch the cock” which doesn’t make a lot of sense, since a) it’s a hen, and b) the creature was dispatched long before being spatched. Apparently there’s also a dish called spitchcock, made with eels, and much as I love eel, this one sound like one to avoid.
In fact, no one seems to know how we got such a silly and difficult word for a cooked chicken, but you can read more than you ever imagined wanting to know at the Naked Whiz (of course someone called the Naked Whiz would have an opinion about spatchcocking) right here.
I suggest practicing saying it in the mirror. A deadpan delivery is probably best. So when your guests ask how you produced this delicious chicken, you can say “oh, it’s grilled, of course, and first I rubbed it with a little olive oil, then sprinkled it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, pimenton, and thyme. But really, the secret of its juiciness and singular appearance is that I, well, I…..spatchcocked it.” Then, as they snicker and snort, you can innocently ask “What?”