First things first. In my buttermilk haze, I completely forgot to truss this bird. I get a little excited about roast chicken. And also a bit distracted buttermilk, as you may have heard.
So when I opened the oven door, the bird’s legs were splayed out in a poultry version of happy baby yoga pose. The legs were also golden brown and incredibly moist. This was first apparent during the carving, and then became even more convincing once I had a thigh in my clutches.
This dish is a take on Southern staples like buttermilk fried chicken and silky collard greens. The greens—also known as dinosaur kale in this kitchen narrative—were graced with the juices that trickled out of the chicken as it cooked. They shriveled down quite a bit in the roasting pan, so what was left of them didn’t feed a crowd. But they fed me, crowd for one.
I ate some of the greens straight from the roasting pan. Some I placed on top of crusty bread. I even slipped a few spoonfuls into the inner leaves of a Napa cabbage. Which sounds a bit odd, but it brought the west coast-vibed vegetable to a whole new place. A homey place. A place where I imagine the sweet tea flows freely, where peach pie is prom queen, and where lard is a birthright.
So what I’m trying to say is that the meal delivered on its Southern hospitality. I also recognize you can’t just throw buttermilk and sweet tea around and expect to develop a drawl. Though—if I’m being honest about my Southern dalliances—I did make pimento cheese spread earlier this week. And I had it for, not one, but two whole meals.
That said, I fully admit the inspiration for this chicken came from a certain New Yorker, who was inspired by the lovely Nigella Lawson. I’m also writing to you from Boston, which has a reputation for being a bit more buttoned up than our neighbors to the South.
No matter. An appreciation for chicken steeped in buttermilk might unite us all. This recipe is easily destined to become a Sunday night staple at my place, paired with some shriveled olives and perhaps a glass, or two, of Chinon. Call it New England meets Georgia meets the Loire Valley. I call it dinner, comingling. But perhaps that’s just my Southern spin.
Kale Greens Under Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen
About a 3 pound whole chicken
2 cups buttermilk
6 cloves garlic, divided
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sugar
Bunch of dinosaur kale (or Lactinato kale)
Small handful of cilantro, very roughly chopped
¾ tbsp butter
Olive oil, as needed
The day before you plan to make the chicken, salt the inside cavity of your bird liberally and repeat on the outside. Combine the buttermilk, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, and sugar in a bowl large enough to place your chicken. Add your chicken to the bowl; spoon the buttermilk marinade on top so that the chicken is well covered in marinade, and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours.
The following day, when you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the dinosaur kale, smash the remaining 3 cloves of garlic, and toss both in a large roasting pan. Toss the greens and garlic lightly in some of the buttermilk marinade to moisten them, then add the roast chicken to the roasting pan; the roast chicken should be well covered in marinade, but you will likely have some leftover remaining marinade that you’ll want to discard.
Gently lift up some of the bird’s top skin so that you can slip the cilantro into it and then rub the butter under the skin. (At this stage, you may also wish to tie its legs; if so, truss on.) Season the bird and the kale with black pepper, perhaps a little more kosher salt, and drizzle a little olive oil on top, just for good measure.
Cook the bird until a thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of a thigh. This should take about 90 minutes, but it will vary depending on your oven, so you may want to check and see where you’re at after 75 minutes, give or take. If you notice your greens are getting a little dry, toss them with a little more olive oil. Let the chicken be for a good 10-15 minutes before attacking.
Makes 1 roast chicken and about 1 cup of greens
-If this leaves you wanting more buttermilk. More chicken. Perhaps even fried. You may want to check out this Eat Boutique recipe. It’s a recipe from a Georgia-bred fellow New Englander and French enthusiast.
-If you are wondering what I do “during the day” (and let’s be honest, you probably aren’t—but here I am, telling you any way) check out this link where I compare my day job (a dietitian) to my pay job (a grad student in BU’s gastronomy program).