26 February 2013

Poulet façon « crapaudine »

Three languages, and at least three ways of naming this method of preparing a chicken for grilling or roasting. In American, we usually call this "butterflying" a chicken. In British, they say that the chicken has been "spatchcocked" or "spattlecocked." And last but not least, in French it can be called « poulet en crapaudine » (or « à la crapaudine », or, as in my title, « façon crapaudine ».

Un poulet préparé et cuit façon crapaudine

Of the three choices, somehow the "butterfly" makes the whole thing seem more appetizing or attractive. I'm not sure what "spatchcock" means in any other context, but you can't call it a pretty word. It's the same with « crapaudine » — a crapaud is a toad, and there's the image: a flattened toad. Chicken prepared this way is also called a « poulet aplati » — a splayed-out chicken. Here's a Canadian video, in French.

The Larousse Gastronomique food dictionary says crapaudine was also some kind of punishment technique practiced in the French military in centuries past. I'm not sure I find that helpful.

Curry spices applied

All that notwithstanding, butterflying a chicken is a great way to prepare it for roasting or grilling. The chicken is flattened and spread out so that it cooks evenly. Here's a video.The first step is to cut the bird's backbone out with a pair of kitchen shears or a very sharp knife. Then you can turn the bird over and, with just one cut through a piece of cartilage, you can easily pull the breastbone out. If you want to, you can cut the wing tips off.

All that's left to do is season the chicken — however you want — and cook it, either in the oven or on a grill. Or even in a pan on top of the stove. The butterflied chicken I made a few days ago was rubbed down with Indian-style spices and roasted on a grill in the oven.

I browned it under the broiler on the cut side first, and then turned it over and finished roasting it skin-side up.


  1. You'll find a clearer video describing butterflying here. Choose part 3 to go straight to butterflying or part 2 for all the preliminaries of preparing a bird for roasting, such as removing the clavicles.

    IMHO, the guy in the about.com video wastes too much of the chicken.

  2. Removing the clavicles... what on earth for... unless you are going to make your guests eat without a knife!!

    A shop I used to use sold mini-poulets at 500gms each... I used to spatchcock them with the steak mallet!!
    One per person... served on a nest of onion, chopped spinach, white cabbage and chopped up potatoes.

    I have never tried with a bird this size... but the mallet method definately would not work!!

  3. Thanks Peter. None of our chicken is ever wasted. The carcass and trimmings go into the stock pot. Then we pick off all the meat and add it to Callie's food.

    What I learned from the videos I found was the easy removal of the breast bone. Not really necessary, but so easy you might as well do it.

    Tim, I was thinking about doing coquelets or cailles — smaller fowl —using this method.

  4. And the more I look at that first picture...
    apart from feeling hungrier and hungrier...
    the more I think the French name is spot on!!

  5. It would really work well with Quail!!

  6. I have in the past wondered why anyone would bother to do this to a chicken, but I guess it cooks much quicker than just roasting it as it comes.

    Yours looks delicious and I will certainly give it a try.

  7. Just for fun, Jean, et pour varier les plaisirs, as they say here. I've been doing chicken this way for many years, now that I think back on it. I think it's an especially good way to prepare fowl that you are going to cook on a barbecue grill.

  8. Just to focus on the linguistic angle for a moment, in English English, we have "toad in the hole", which might be better rendered as saucissons en clafoutis - a good solid comfort food for this weather.

  9. I have only prepared a chicken like this one time in my life, and if I remember correctly, it was delicious.
    I don't think I like the word crapaudine very much, reminds me of a crapaud which is an ugly looking buffoon frog here.

  10. Yup, I'm not sure I'd want to call my dish anything that starts with crap, so I'll go for butterflied :)

    Yours looks very tasty :)

  11. The chicken looks to me like it's doing the Charleston.

  12. hee hee hee.. what Judith said. great work!

  13. LOL Judith! I'm going with the butterfly description and the chicken looks lovely on that beautiful platter! Yes, it's good to enjoy food cooked in a variety of ways.

  14. I agree that butterflying is the most appealing name. I've never done this to a chicken, but will have to give it a try.

  15. I won't say what comment came to mind when I saw the 'butterflyed' chicken.

  16. Ginny and all, once you've taken the backbone and breastbone out of the chicken, it's easy and maybe even more practical to cut it into two halves before grilling or roasting it. When I roasted mine and went to turn it over after browning the cut side under the broiler, I grabbed it by the leg... and the leg pulled right off. I rearranged it all for the photos in this post (secrets de chef !)


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