I have seldom seen a flattened chicken served. This is a shame, as while a little messy, it is a quick and easy process. It also eases marinating a whole bird, dramatically reduces the cooking time, and makes a great impression when served at a dinner party. While tonight's big cook will be Arroz con Pollo, which requires that I dissect our six pound bird from Fresh from the Farm into parts, it seemed like a good opportunity to document the process. All that is required is a cutting board, a sharp knife, and a good pair of kitchen shears. The high carbon steel knife and shears are two of the most used implements in our kitchen, and both are courtesy of Lee Valley Tools. We usually buy our birds frozen, and then thaw them. If the bird is still partially frozen it makes managing and cutting it easier.
The first step is to remove the bird's backbone Flip it over on its breast bone and score the skin with the knife. Then, take the shears and cut along the lines an pop out the backbone.
Spread the body until you hear a crack as the breastbone loosens. You will now see the the bottom of the breastbone under a membrane. Score the membrane with the knife on both sides, then use the knife to separate the white meat from the breastbone. The only trick is to avoid cutting through the skin. You can do this by making smooth angled cuts. The fat will help keep the knife from going through as well.
Towards the neck hole there are some bigger bones. Take the shears and cut through them, pop out the breast bone. Flip over the bird and you're done!
You can avoid wasting the bits if you make stock at the same time. The fresh chicken and giblets make for the best flavour. Just make sure to strip off the skin first so the stock isn't too fatty!