Even though spring is in the air and the weather is getting warmer, I still love a great roasted chicken!  And this butterflied chicken roasted in a cast-iron skillet rivals beer-can chicken for best chicken ever!  It is super simple to prepare and butterflying the chicken reduces the cooking time and helps the chicken cook evenly all over.  But the best part is that you roast the chicken on a thick bed of country bread which soaks up all the chicken juices and is basted with bacon grease.  As the chicken slowly roasts, the bread turns into the best crunchy croutons that you have ever eaten.
I prefer the square cast-iron skillet because it accommodates the shape of a butterflied chicken PER-FEC-T-LY!

Cast-Iron Butterflied Chicken with Bacon Croutons

Serves 4

1          whole chicken, about 3 ½ to 4 pounds, preferably Amish or organic
Olive oil
1          teaspoon Kosher salt
½        teaspoon dried garlic
¼         teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼         teaspoon dried thyme
10       slices of thick-cut bacon
1          loaf of rustic country bread or a dense baguette

Preheat oven to 325 F

Remove chicken from packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Using poultry or kitchen shears cut along each side of the back bone and remove it.  Turn chicken breast-side up. Open the two sides of the chicken as if you were opening a book, and lay it flat.  Break the breast bone by firmly applying pressure and pressing down—you may break a few rib bones in the process.  Tuck the wing tip under the upper wing and set aside.

Brush chickens all over with olive oil.  Combine salt, garlic, black pepper and thyme in a small dish. Season chicken lightly on both sides with the spice mixture and set aside.

Place the bacon in a cast-iron pan and cook over a low heat.  You do not want to burn the bacon fat because it is key to the dish.  When the bacon has rendered all of it’s fat, and is golden brown, remove and reserve for another meal like a blt or a blat (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) sandwich.

Cut the bread into thick pieces, at least 1-inch thick and line the cast iron pan with the bread.  Place chickens skin-side up on top of the bread in the skillet and place in a pre-heated oven.

Place in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear.  The thigh will registers 180 ˚F.

NOTE: You can also make this in a preheated grill using indirect heat: [Grilling Method:  Indirect/Medium-low Heat]

Remove chickens from oven and let rest in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Cut chicken into halves or quarters and serve directly from the skillet with a piece of the crispy bacon crouton.