Kale Greens Under Buttermilk Roast Chicken, South By Northeast

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


Kosher salt
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
Black pepper
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). 


  1. Girl, my mouth is watering reading this post. I haven't made roast chicken in ages and I might just make a trip to the grocery store this weekend to whip up something like this!
    PS - I love pimiento cheese!

  2. The roasted chicken looks AWESOME. It looks so juicy!

  3. Just read your post on Gastronomy at BU. I did my Masters there in clinical nutrition after finishing my dietetic internship, but wonder if I should have just done the Gastronomy program. It sounds amazing and reflects the food philosophy that i ascribe to as an RD, too.

  4. pimento cheese? atta girl! that, combined with this lusciously-made chicken, is enough to make any southerner (real or honorary) happy. :)

  5. Thanks ladies! Roast chicken (and pimento cheese, I might add) is hard to beat. ;)

    Jess, the program is amazing. At times, I want to tear all my hair out (turns out, it's been quite a challenge to switch from science to liberal arts) but overall it's been incredibly rewarding.

  6. Oh my gosh - mouth watering!! I've kinda had a thing for buttermilk lately... And it's a good thing :)

  7. I've been trying to figure out what to do with some extra buttermilk I have in my fridge and I have found it. This looks absolutely incredible.

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  9. I just made this chicken this past weekend, and MAN WAS IT GOOD! I will definitely be making it again, and again, and again. The only thing that didn't work for me (but I'd like to make it work in the future) was the kale greens. I checked them to see if they needed more moisture like 20 minutes into the cooking time, and they were already black and burned to a crisp. I did toss them in some marinade, and drizzled a little olive oil on top of them before I put them in. I did not put the chicken on top of them, but had them around the chicken. What did I do wrong on that part?! Thanks!

  10. Hi KK,

    Thanks for commenting! So glad you enjoyed the chicken ... and sorry to hear about that kale! I believe I did have most of the kale underneath the chicken so that might have helped to protect them. Adding some more of the buttermilk mixture to them might help to keep them moist too. (They definitely did shrivel up quite a bit though....) I believe I checked them ~30-40 min into the cooking and added a little more olive oil. Ovens can be so fickle though, and mine tends to run low. Whenever I make it again I'll be sure to keep you posted ...