Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust

I must confess. I have a crush on someone. I know, it’s shameful. He’s worldly and experienced and totally out of my league, but I can’t help it. I am completely enamored.

It all started innocently enough. One November afternoon, when Steve was playing games in the other room, I decided to tune in to Food Network. I never watched much Food TV, but I figured I would take advantage of having the big TV to myself to see what was going on.

Well.  What was going on was food competition shows from 2 to 10. Um, no thank you.  I vaguely recalled reading the Fresh Food on TV posts over at Serious Eats… something about shows on PBS… hm, let me try that…

Lidia! Lidia Bastianich was on! Making pasta! I felt a surge of joy. Real cooking by a respected chef. This I could deal with. I watched with a big smile on my face, excitedly telling Steve when he came in the room that I had found these wonderful new (ha) cooking shows. Little did I know that, for me, the best was yet to come.

4:00 rolls around. Some show called More Fast Food My Way with some guy named Jacques Pepin. Hm. I thought maybe I had heard his name before… somewhere, sometime, spoken of happily, perhaps admiringly. Alright then. Might as well sit and pay attention.

So I watched. I watched as he cut and chopped and diced the leeks and mushrooms and onions and garlic. I had never seen someone move so fast with a knife before. I was in awe. Then he butterflied a pork loin. It was the first time I had seen another cook do it and, even better, explain every step so clearly while they were working.

In fact, he explained everything he did, the why even more than than how, and for 25 minutes I was completed enraptured. He taught me more in that short time than I had learned in 2 years of catching shows on Food Network. I almost cried. Really. I finally understood why people moan and wail over the current state of cooking shows. There is just no comparison when you watch someone like Jacques.

And it’s not just his cooking. It’s things like…

In another episode, when he burned one side of his lamb burgers, he didn’t even really acknowledge the error, though you knew that he knew. He just continued on, took them out of the pan for their plating, and while arranging them dark side down, simply said “Never apologize.” I actually get emotional just typing that. But he’s right, and I need to learn that. I was grateful to hear him say it.

Then there was the time he was cooking a chicken thigh dish and, apropos of nothing, let loose this little gem:

“The recipe is only the expression of one moment in time… which is what happened the day that I did this. In fact, when I did that recipe before, it probably was different than it is now. Always different.”

Indeed. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I get hung up on recipes. I’m trying to learn not to do that either.

I can’t quite explain it, but his words are soothing to me. He makes me smile. He inspires me to cook and makes me feel confident that I can cook, I can cook anything, and that the experience of doing so can be whatever I want it to be.

And so I have fallen in love with Jacques. With his humor, with his tips and tricks and techniques. With his easy way about the kitchen. With his voice. My god, his VOICE. I am deeply affected by voices and, man, I could listen to him talk for hours.

As for Steve? Well, don’t worry about him. He’s okay with it. In fact, he’s more than okay. He actually loves him too. Jacques is the only chef he will watch with me, intently, smiling and nodding (and imitating his accent!) along the way.

I do realize I am late to the party. I’m a young cook, and Jacques has been around a long while.  He’s famous the world over and god knows I’m certainly not the first to be enthralled with him. But now that I’ve been introduced, I intend to read and watch everything of his that I can.

So what’s with the chicken? Well, this is the first Jacques recipe I made. And it’s fabulous. Spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting chicken and if you haven’t done it, I think you’re missing out. It’s simple to prepare it this way up front and there are so many rewards in the end – it’s easy to cut into pieces (sometimes simply falling apart), the skin is crispy and the meat is deliciously tender. You haven’t had breast meat quite like this. Promise.

Technique aside, the garlic mustard crust is phenomenal. It coats every single inch of the chicken and delivers a big punch of flavor in every bite.

But don’t take my word for it. It’s Jacques.  And I think that speaks for itself.

Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust
from Jacques Pepin (you can watch the entire episode through this link – I suggest watching at least the first bit of the video if you want to see how the spatchcocking is done before doing it yourself)


2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Tabasco hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)


For the crust: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside the backbone of the chicken to split it open. Spread and press on the chicken with your hands to flatten it. Using a sharp paring knife, cut halfway through both sides of the joints connecting the thighs and drumsticks and cut through the joints of the shoulder under the wings as well. (This will help the heat penetrate these joints and accelerate the cooking process.)

Put the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and spread it with about half the mustard mixture. Place the chicken flat in a large skillet, mustard side down. Spread the remaining mustard on the skin side of the chicken. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then place the skillet in the oven and cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. It should be well browned and dark on top.

Let the chicken rest in the skillet at room temperature for a few minutes, then cut it into 8 pieces with clean kitchen shears. Defat the cooking juices. If you like, mound some mashed potatoes on each of four warm dinner plates and place 2 pieces of chicken on each plate. Pour some juice on the mashed potatoes and chicken and serve.


30 thoughts on “Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust

  1. That's quite a love story. As I'm reading it I'm thinking, “Yeah, PBS is so much better than the Food Network.” Lidia, Ming, Jacques… they actually teach you something. And they don't need the flash.

    And I think Jacques took “Never apologize” from Julia…. she was the same way.


  2. Wonderful that you are able to discover and appreciate a true classic in Monsieur Pepin. He does possess that certain je ne sais quoi which simultaneously both urges and eases your kitchen technique.

    Fabulous looking chicken!


  3. I feel enlightened. I'm unfamiliar with him. I must check out his show on food network. Thanks for sharing your crush/inspiration. That chicken looks awesome but I have to say I'm intimated about splitting one!


  4. oh dear, you are late to the party! He did a show about 20 yrs. ago with Ms. Child called “Julia and Jacques cooking at home” that runs regularly on PBS. You MUST catch a few of them.

    In my eyes he is THE master chef- knows techniques like a real, oldschool French chef should. I will mourn for days when he leaves us.


  5. omgosh! i have [hearts] for him!! i knew the name, but couldn't put it together with a face. now i can. yay me!

    i agree that the food network tends to leave one a little dissatisfied as of late. too many competitions, not enough cooking…


  6. Pepin is da man. Thanks for this wonderful, lovely post. I've forgotten how much the man rocks.

    I wonder if his other shows are on Netflix. Gotta check it out after this.

    It doesn't get any better than when he cooked with Julia (just the ones with the two of them in a kitchen, not the one with the studio audience).

    One series (I think it was “Cooking with Claudine”) had him teach cooking to his Americanized daughter. It predates and trumps the “How to Boil Water” series by a decade. You can see he's a loving father, but a normal one, with his patience wearing thin when she wasn't getting it. His is not just a great cooking show, it's great TV!


  7. As I am just starting this adventure called cooking and healthy living, I'm looking forward to getting to know Jacques! Thanks for leaving clues along the path for us beginners!


  8. okay blogger let's see if you eat this comment!

    i love this post. i love that you found jacques, it's better late than never. you couldn't find a better cooking guru than him…

    also you said spatchcocking… hehehehehehe… spatchcocking with jacques and melissa… heehehehehe… god i am such a 5 year old.


  9. Your post is lovely…your photos are lovely…the sentiment is lovely.

    Jacques Pépin is an icon for a reason. He UNDERSTANDS food…and cooks. When he was on Top Chef and he told Carla his “last supper” food request would be squab with peas…my love for him was complete nearly 30 years after I started watching him. Happy you found Jacques. BTW…he's one of the master chefs at FCI. 😀


  10. Jacques is brilliant, and my favorite episodes are when he cooks with Julia, and I always enjoyed his shows with Claudine, his daughter. There's just such an easy way about his manner, making anything possible.

    And spatchcocked is the only way to roast a chicken. Love it.


  11. I love PBS cooking shows — I hardly ever watch Food Network anymore.

    I got a little Jacques'd out, but did catch and love a show yesterday. Been watching a lot of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie and Simply Ming lately.


  12. In my circle of food friends, he is known as St. Jacques. I have been collecting his books over the years, including the latest ones.

    One book of his you might consider, is Complete Techniques. It is in print still, I think. It is one of the best basic books I have ever seen, on the techniques used in cooking. It truly is a masterpiece. And Jacques PBS series on techniques comes from his book. It is a very worthwhile series, if you ever catch it on PBS.

    I have been looking at that recipe for some time, thinking that I would like to try it. It looks so good! Now you have convinced me that it is one I really want to try.


  13. Yes. And yes.

    Jacques is fabulous. This post is marvelous. The chicken looks wonderful AND PBS is spectacular.

    Food Network? I'll just throw two names out there: Sandra Lee and Guy Fieri. Enough said.


  14. Julia – You are correct. That immediately sounded familiar after you said it. God bless Julia Child.

    Heidi – Very well put!

    Jeni Don't be intimidated! Watch the video. It's SO easy. And hunt him down on PBS, if he's on where you are.

    C – I've actually caught two of those so far, since they come on from time to time on PBS. I don't what the rhyme or reason is, but I set a series recording to get them when they come on. Steve and I watched them together and LAUGHED. A lot. The relationship between the two of them is hilarious and wonderful and fantastic.

    And I don't even want to think about him leaving us. Luckily by then I will have his two master books to carry on with me.

    Cali – I am so glad you know him haha. Yay!

    Edwin – How did I not know you thought he was great?? 😀 😀 😀 Someone else suggested I try Netflix for his other shows and I forgot – thanks for the reminder.

    As for Claudine *chuckle* yeah I've noticed that. I thought maybe I was imagining it. You and my friend Krysta confirmed my (amused) suspicions.

    Mia – Absolutely. I hope you enjoy learning to cook. I'm biased because I'm passionate about it, but I found that passion late… and I truly believe it's one of the best things you can teach yourself.

    krysta – Fucking Blogger. Hehe. Spatchcock! SPATCHCOCK!!

    Paula – I'm so glad you love him too. I had to figure you would. I heard about that Top Chef episode, I wish now that I had seen it.

    Elliott – Aw, you love Jacques too? Nice. AND you're familiar with and a fan of spatchcocking. Even better!

    Robin! Nice to see ya. Ming is also great, though I'm kind of meh about the Gourmet show.

    Christine – St. Jacques. *Sigh* I will take the recommendation. I think his two technique books are the ones I will want to have on hand the most. I will also look for the series, so thank you. And please try the recipe, I'm sure you would love it.

    Rebecca – Don't you mean Guy Ferry? And thank you. Thank you. 🙂


  15. Jacques Pepin with a knife is poetry in motion. I love that man as well. He's probably one of the best chefs in the world, but there isn't an ounce of pretension in his manner. He admitted he loves iceberg lettuce on hamburgers because of the crunch. And he said that if you like your burgers well done, then cook them that way and ignore the food snobs. God bless the man.

    Now go get his memoir. It's fantastic.


  16. Paul and I did away with cable until just recently, so I hadn't seen anything on Food Network in a loooong time. Oh my, how it's changed. Not in a good way. BUT, I suspect I am in the minority when I admit to enjoying reality cooking shows. I love Top Chef and Gordon Ramsey, etc.

    I grew up watching PBS with my mom, so I totally understand the difference, though. Remember The Frugal Gourmet? And of course Julia. Will need to set Jacques in our TiVo.

    Also, I thought the overall method of Spatchcocking was just as simple as everyone said, but I have no idea why it didn't cook evenly. I swear, I'm going to try it again.

    Great post, M. I hope it felt good to write, as opposed to before when it started to feel like an obligation.

    I know I'm late here, but I didn't want to rush through it. I don't get to play like the others as much. Waaaaa.


  17. He is on PBS! He did guest on Top Chef once though…

    Amy, I appreciate that you came when you could, as you know. And for the spatchcocking – I've done this recipe three times now with perfect results and I think the fact that he recommends cutting a slit between the joints helps a lot for even cooking. 🙂


  18. I now must watch Jacques – you just made me a believer! I roast chicken all the time but have never tried spatchcocking before. This looks AMAZING!


  19. I feel the need to watch him! I feel like I am missing out! I love that he burned that burger…wow. And what he said about it never being the same, that makes me feel so validated!!


  20. I love the cooking shows on PBS. The new Cooking Channel has the old Julia Child and Company shows on and I am enjoying them too. Jacques is such a class act.


  21. Ah yes Jacques is a class act. I love watching him cook. He can burn whatever he wants. The music he plays the wine he drinks- seems like the perfect dining companion! Thanks for posting that link for the chicken. I am going to make it this week! I am tempted to change the herbs a bit though (not a huge fan of the Herbs provence) but perhaps it is only fair to make it the first time as is before deciding I don't like that part of it!


  22. Jill, you might want to give that a shot – there is so little of it in the overall recipe, it really is just a hint of herbal flavor.

    And yes, Jacques is the best!


  23. Made it tonite and it is DELICIOUS! So easy if you have poultry shears. I have to fess up that I didn't use the Herbs provence- I used my fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden. I made the potatoes too and they were really good just because of the whisking I think! And on the side I also made some Haricot verts- so easy – just olive oil, green beans, salt and pepper fresh chopped garlic- stick it into the 450 oven for about 10 minutes while the chicken is in there. mmmm Good all around.
    Thanks again for posting this I never would have tried this way if not for your blog!


  24. Jill, I am positively overjoyed to hear that. So many people have passed on cooking methods and ideas to me that have lasted me years now and I feel there is nothing better than being able to do that for someone else. I love this technique for the chicken and I agree it is easy and makes the chicken come out perfectly.

    Thank you!! And as Jacques would say, happy cooking!


  25. All this talk of roast chicken has me wishing I hadn't planned to work late tonight. It's cooled off outside enough that the AC is off at home, I can turn on the oven again without feeling guilty.

    Ah, there's always tomorrow!


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