Buttermilk Roast Chicken might have changed the way I make chicken forever.
Knowing how to simply roast a chicken is one of the great delights of being able to cook. Julia Child always said you should judge a cook not on their soufflés and other fancy dishes, but on whether or not they could produce a quality roast chicken.
In fact, last year the website buzzfeed had a Roast Chicken Tournament and crowned Thomas Keller’s recipe the winner.
I’ve tried Mr. Keller’s method and it makes a good chicken. It also smokes up your house if your oven is not perfectly clean. I mean pristine.
Of course, I learned to roast chickens from our beloved Julia, adapting her tried and true method (minus the trussing) for my favorite Roast Chicken with Herbs. But that was all before I found Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Buttermilk Roast Chicken.
This was, hands down, the best roast chicken I’ve ever had.
Here’s what you need:
Whole Chicken, Buttermilk, Vegetable Oil, Olive Oil (not pictured), Honey, Garlic, Fresh Rosemary, Salt & Pepper.
You also need an extra large ziplock bag and foil to line the roasting pan.
Note: This chicken needs to marinate OVERNIGHT so plan ahead!
You might notice in the top picture that our bird is sort of all splayed out in the pan. This is not by accident but rather because for this recipe you remove the backbone and butterfly or Spatchcock the chicken.
Spatchcock! How’s that for a great new cooking term. Best said with the crazy faux-European accent of your choice.
By removing the backbone, the chicken lies flat in the pan spreading the meat out to roast more evenly and in less time. Less time means juicier chicken. No more dried out white meat.
Choose your weapon of choice. I have (in order of preference) kitchen shears, a boning knife, and a small cleaver-type knife.
And if you think my kitchen scissors look suspiciously like garden clippers it’s because they ARE garden clippers.
I’ve broken at least 3 sets of fancy kitchen shears so I bought these at the hardware store and keep them dedicated for kitchen only use. They’re strong and tough (since they’re made to cut sticks and branches) and I even put them in the dishwasher. These have lasted at least 9 years and are still going strong.
Okay, let’s spatchcock this baby.
(Vegans, look away.)
Be sure you have removed any innards that are inside the cavity of the chicken. There is often a little package with the gizzards and bits in there.
I have about a 4 pound chicken…maybe slightly bigger.
Turn the chicken over so the breast side and legs are down. At the top of the chicken you should find a little stubby bone where the neck used to be. This will be the start of the backbone.
Use your knife or kitchen shears to cut down either side of this backbone.
I started with the knife just to get a good cut but then quickly switched to the shears. It is MUCH easier to cut the chicken with the shears.
It’s a little blurry and slightly gruesome looking, but when you cut down both sides of the backbone, it pops right out.
I keep the backbone in my bag o’ chicken parts (wings, necks, etc.) that I save in the freezer to make Chicken Stock.
Open the chicken up like a book and gently press down on the sides to flatten him out.
Hurray! You’ve just spatchcocked your chicken!
Removing the backbone is easier than you think. However, if you are unsure about this whole process, chances are very good that if you ask nicely, the butcher at your grocery store will do it for you.
You don’t want to have to miss making this chicken over a fear of spatchcocking.
The thing that takes this chicken over the top, is the buttermilk marinade.
If you’re a fan of fried chicken, you already know that buttermilk is the key to juicy and flavorful chicken. The acidity in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the meat while rosemary and garlic add tons of flavor.
We will build our marinade in an extra large (at least 2 gallon) zipper top bag.
Lightly crush 2 big cloves of garlic and roughly chop 2 Tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves and add them to the bag.
Pour in 2 cups of buttermilk and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.
Add 1 Tablespoon of honey…
and lots of coarsely ground black pepper. I set my pepper grinder on the coarsest setting and have ground out about 1 Tablespoon of pepper. Add 1-2 teaspoons salt.
Zip up the bag and gently mix all of the marinade ingredients together then open the bag and add the chicken.
Work it down into the marinade, zip up the bag trying to release most of the trapped air, and gently massage the buttermilk marinade into the bird.
Place it meaty breast side down in the marinade in a large bowl just to be sure there are no leaks.
Refrigerate and marinate overnight or up to two days.
When you are ready for awesome roast chicken dinner, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and set it on a rack to drip dry.
Discard the used marinade.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line a roasting pan with foil and place the chicken breast side up in the pan. Season with a little additional salt & pepper and drizzle with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes then REDUCE the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 20-25 minutes more.
The chicken is done when it is golden brown and the juices run clear when you pierce the skin where the leg joins the bird.
Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Save any juices from the pan to drizzle over the carved bird.
Grab the best, most golden piece for your plate. She who spatchcocks gets first dibs!
And don’t let that extra buttermilk go to waste…some buttermilk mashed potatoes will be perfect with this chicken as will our favorite green beans with caramelized shallots.
There are not many recipes that I make that I don’t think, “Maybe next time I’ll add this or that…” but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change one thing about this Buttermilk Roast Chicken.
Move over Thomas Keller, Nigella’s in the house and she’s got the winning chicken.
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Nigella Lawson/NY Times