Entrees, Recipes

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

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I’ve been on a buttermilk kick recently. After developing a serious craving for buttermilk fried chicken a few weeks ago, but wanting to cook at home instead of eating out, I decided to research methods of doing a roasted version instead.

I found recipes in the cookbooks on my shelves (including The Essential New York Times Cookbook and The Complete Southern Cookbook), but ultimately turned back to the web.

There’s an internet trail of buttermilk roast chicken adaptations that leads back to a Nigella Lawson recipe from 5 years ago, in which she marinates the chicken for 2 hours before roasting it. Smitten Kitchen made a great adaptation by increasing the marinating time and adding paprika and sugar to the marinade. Life is Great took this one step further by making her own buttermilk and roasting in a cast iron skillet with goose fat.

How much do I love this dish? I made it 4 times in the course of 1 week, testing it after 2 hours, 7 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours of marinating. And as you may be able to guess, the longer marinating times are recommended. After 2 hours you can detect the buttermilk flavor, but it’s relatively faint. After 7 hours it was wonderful. And after 1 to 2 days? Heaven on earth with a choir of angels in the background. The buttermilk flavor is more pronounced in the meat itself than in the skin, and the meat is so lusciously tender I wouldn’t blame you if you wept a little.

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I ended up using more buttermilk and more paprika in the marinade than the Smitten Kitchen and Life is Great recipes, and added a bit of rosemary in the final 10 to 15 minutes of roasting for a subtle hint of rosemary in the finished dish.  Extra paprika and sea salt finish off the skin nicely. Roasted potatoes is a no-brainer side, but you can serve the chicken with a simple salad with vinaigrette.

And after doubling the portions and ending up with a lot of chicken, I had no problem eating leftover chicken for breakfast too. Three days in a row.

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Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Serves 4

  • 3 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon paprika, plus more for sprinkling over the chicken
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Very generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the buttermilk, paprika, sugar, salt, and black pepper. The buttermilk will turn a nice light shade of pink.
  2. Place the chicken in a gallon-size freezer bag and pour the buttermilk brine over it. Seal the bag and shake so that all the chicken pieces are well-coated. Allow the chicken to marinate 2 hours at the bare minimum, or ideally 7+ hours, or 1 to 2 days for the best flavor.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or sheet tray with foil or parchment. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and arrange them in the pan. Brush the tops with the olive oil, then sprinkle a bit of salt and enough paprika to add a nice red hue to the top. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes. In the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting, carefully slide the pan out half-way, sprinkle a bit of rosemary over the chicken, then return the pan to roasting. The chicken is done when the top has a deep golden-reddish hue and juicy-looking all over. Transfer the chicken and rosemary to plates and serve with roasted potatoes or a side salad.

Adapted from Life is GreatSmitten Kitchen, and Nigella Lawson

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More recipes with buttermilk around the web: