Halloween Recipe: The Facehugger Feast Roasted Chicken
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And while it turned out amazingly delicious, I was also told in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to make another chestburster for this year’s holiday…and because I love my family, I agreed.
But nobody said ANYTHING about not making an Alien’s inspired Facehugger chicken!
BEHOLD! THE FACEHUGGER FEAST!
Made from a full-sized roasting chicken, snow crab legs, and a homemade chicken sausage tail, this sweet slab of petrifying poultry is smokey, succulent, and has just enough bite from a secret ingredient to make you cautiously come back for more.
In short, it’s damn good.
This recipe is a bit involved. It takes a good 24 hours and includes multiple steps and a few unique ingredients, but trust me when I say, it’s so worth the effort…both visually and for how good it tastes.
Now, before we get too far into this, let me say that yes, this can absolutely be done with a turkey as well and would make the perfect show-stopping centerpiece to any Thanksgiving meal. I just didn’t have the oven space for a full turkey face hugger. Maybe next year?!
To make your own Facehugger Feast, the first thing we need to do is prep the chicken.
24-hours ahead of time, brine your chicken. To do this you will need:
- 1 roasting chicken
- 1 gallon water
- 1/2 cup Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
In a large pot on the stove, mix together your water, salt and brown sugar. Over medium heat, mix until fully dissolved. Allow to cool completely.
Place your chicken into a large container and pour your brine over, fully covering the chicken.
Pop the whole thing into the fridge for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours.
Now let’s work on the rub. You will need:
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Whisk all these ingredients together and set aside for 30 minutes to really get acquainted.
Let’s also make our honey glaze.
For this you will need:
- 2/3 cup Ghost Pepper honey*
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
*The secret to the sweet heat in this recipe is the ghost-pepper honey. I found some a few weeks ago on Instagram from a company called The Beecreeper. Seriously, this stuff is intense! They’re still working on setting up their website, but you can bug (ha!) them on IG @_beecreeper_
If you can’t snag your own ghost pepper honey, simply add 3 teaspoons of chili powder…but know it’s just not going to be the same.
Whisk all this together and set aside for 30 minutes as well.
While that’s resting, let’s move onto the next step.
For this you will need:
- Your rub
- Your glaze
- Your brined chicken (patted dry)
- 3 feet of sausage casing
- Butcher’s twine
- 1 additional boneless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- .5 oz (roughly 1/2 teaspoon) transglutaminase** powder.
**Remember our earlier recipe, the Chili Con Carnage? We discuss in depth there exactly what transglutaminase powder is and where to get it.
We’re going to start out by first spatchcocking our chicken.
Spatchcocking…and before you let your dirty little mind run off into the gutter, let me explain exactly what spatchcocking is.
When you spatchcock a chicken, you remove the backbone (ie: spine) and flatten the whole thing out before cooking. This is done for a number of reasons.
In normal cooking a spatchcocked chicken roasts in just 30 minutes, which is actually 15 minutes less than a normal roasting meaning tons of saved time.
It also exposes more of the bird to dry heat, resulting in a crispy, crunchy skin.
And while this is all good, we’re doing it for another, more artistic reason.
This is a face hugger:
This is a spatchcocked chicken:
See the similarity?
Okay, true…we’re missing the tail and a few other details need to be adjusted, but it’s the same general shape!
To spatchcock your chicken (quit giggling, I can hear you!) pat your brined chicken dry and flip onto your cutting board, breast down.
Using a pair of strong shears, cut along both sides of the spinal column lengthwise on your chicken, splitting your bird in half from tail to tip and completely removing the spine.
Congratulations, you now have before you a spineless chicken…or as I like to call it: My ex.
Now we need to remove those pesky wings and legs.
From the INSIDE of your bird, carefully locate the top joints of your legs (aka drumsticks) and slice through those. Pull the legs up through the skin, basically turning it inside out. Cut the skin off at the base of the leg bone closest to where the feet would be if they were still attached.
Flip your bird over, breast side up, and carefully remove the wings, trying to ensure that your cuts are as close to the skin and as small as possible. Now smoosh your bird flat, pressing the breast back into the board with the palm of your hands. You’ll hear some crunches…don’t worry, that’s normal.
You should end up with something that looks like this:
Save the legs, wings, and spine for another recipe.
Now that that is done, move your chicken to a large aluminum foil lined cookie sheet with high edges and give it a good rubdown with your rub.
In a food processor, combine your boneless chicken breast, 2 tablespoons of your rub (you should have plenty, don’t worry) and your transglutaminase powder. Pulse until you end up with a thick paste.
Drizzle in enough chicken broth to form a thick milkshake like slurry. Mmm…meat slurry! The goal here is to create a mixture that is just barely liquid enough to be easy to jam through a funnel into your sausage casing.
Tie a knot at one end of your casing. Pull the open end of your casing over the nozzle end of a funnel and pull up the rest of your casing like it’s a sock and your nozzle is a very strange looking foot.
Scoop your meat slurry into your funnel. Using the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, jam the slurry through your funnel and into the casing. Don’t worry if it’s not evenly distributed yet, just fill the casing up until you’ve used all your slurry.
Once you fill it all the way up, tie a knot in the open end of your casing at about the 2 1/2 foot mark. Gently squeeze your casing, evenly distributing the meat slurry through the whole thing.
Using your butcher’s twine, wrap your casing starting at one end and ending about 6″ below the other end. This will be the crest of your hugger body as well as your tail.
Loosen the skin all along the back of your chicken. Do this by gently sliding your hand between the skin and the meat of your chicken and lifting upwards. Don’t completely separate your skin from the edges or on the leg section of your roast…you just want to create a large pocket in the back for the crest tube (sausage) and legs (coming soon).
Stuff the unwrapped end of your chicken sausage between the skin and the meat on the back of your chicken, pulling the knotted end all the way through so it sticks out the neck area of your roast. The rest should be sticking out the bottom as a tail. I used two toothpicks to pinch the chicken skin closed over the back of the chicken where the tail went in to help keep it in place. Curve the tail back and forth on itself so the entire thing fits on your cookie sheet. Next, take another toothpick and give the entire tail a few pokes through the casing. You don’t want to do too many, but a few along the length every few inches or so will allow the steam that will result from cooking escape. Forgetting to do this can result in a tail that splits or blows up while cooking.
Give the tail a good rubdown with the rub as well.
Now let’s prep your facehugger so you can attach the legs later.
For this, you’ll need 8 holes for your crab legs, 4 for each side.
I’m going to be completely honest with you and tell you that the first time I made this dish, I jammed the legs in before cooking the chicken (hence all these photos). This ruined the crab legs. If you decide to do it this way, know ahead of time that we’re cooking this beast at a temperature that will dry your crab legs out and make them taste awful. Trust me, you will NOT want to eat them…so I strongly suggest either getting the cheapest legs you can find that you don’t mind ruining, or stick them in at the end.
All the photos in this tutorial are of me doing it the wrong way…putting the crab legs in before roasting the chicken. Don’t do this…but for now, just deal with the fact that I made a mistake and you’re benefitting from it.
I picked up a right half and left half set of snow crab legs for $8 total at my grocer. Get just the legs…you don’t need the claws.
Using a sharp knife, slit your chicken along the “back” in three slices on both sides and two in the front using this template as a guide:
Using your tin foil, twist up 8 tubes approximately the same size as your crab legs and jam them in as place-holders for now.
Size them appropriately to your crab legs, starting with the largest ones in the back and getting smaller as you go. Save the two smallest legs for the front.
IF YOU ROAST YOUR CRAB LEGS, tuck your legs up so they’re “crawling” and use the edge of your cookie sheet to keep them in place.
A ball of aluminum foil, wadded up, works well to keep the front elevated and in place.
Give the whole thing another rubdown with your rub.
Now let’s add some glaze! Using a food safe brush, give your entire face hugger (except the legs) a nice thick layer of glaze.
Pop into a 350F/175C oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.
At the 15 minute mark, pull it out and give it another thick basting with your glaze. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes and repeat the glazing.
At the half-hour mark, pull out, wrap the legs in tin foil to keep them from burning, give it one more good swab with your glaze, and return to the oven for a final 10-minute stint.
All in all, you’ll be roasting it for 40 minutes. I know I said a spatchcocked chicken takes only 30 minutes to roast, but because we’ve added so much to it, super soaked it with the glaze, and have a chicken sausage tail, we need to ensure food safety by guaranteeing the interior reaches a consumption safe temperature of 165F/73C. Test for doneness by taking an internal temperature reading at the thickest part of the roast.
when it’s done, pull it out of the oven and remove the foil from your crab legs.
If you haven’t roasted your crab legs (good on you) NOW is the time to insert them into your roast beast. Gently pull out your aluminum foil place holders and swap in your crab legs.
Gently snip off the butcher twine from your sausage tail now as well. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes and then transfer to your serving platter.
Bask in the enviable glow that comes from creating something so damn devious looking and so damn tasty!