Zui Ji (Drunken Chicken)
This classic Shanghainese banquet dish is traditionally served at the new year to represent togetherness and rebirth. To “intoxicate” the chicken, it’s marinated in rice wine for up to 5 days, so this is a great dish to make ahead. The final flavor will be pungent and alcohol-forward, so choose a high-quality Shaoxing wine.
Nigerian Clay Pot Chicken
Everyone has a dish that they’ve eaten in a certain place and time, a dish that speaks to the emotions the memory invokes. This Clay Pot Chicken was Sunday dinner at our house in Ikeja, Nigeria—a roast chicken dish sourced from our backyard. My family raised chickens, catfish, large African snails, and the occasional pig in our yard. Our garden featured dozens of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit trees. Although Ikeja is more suburban than the lively districts of Lagos most visitors may encounter, it is still very much a part of the metropolitan area. Lush ingredient gardens are not uncommon in the homes of Lagosians; “backyard-to-table” is traditional to the cuisine.According to my mother’s recipe, the live chicken is prepped that afternoon, the vegetables and herbs collected after the feathers were off the bird, and the clay pot soaked the night before. I had the tough job of picking out the herbs she wanted, a task I admit I didn't always enjoy. Her kitchen window opened up into the garden, and she would order me around for precisely what she was looking for. She ruled her kitchen with a silent finger pointing me this way and that.This recipe is an adaptation for my kitchen. A store-bought chicken is trussed, rubbed with an infused compound butter—Alligator Pepper and Makrut Lime Butter, in this case—then nestled on a layer of seasonal vegetables. Lemongrass, whole lime slices, and ginger add a punchy fragrance and a tangible sweetness to the pot. In the oven, the delicious herb-spiced chicken drippings coat the vegetables and citrus slices, which all gently caramelize as the chicken cooks.My recipe does omit the clay pot, and uses a Dutch oven instead, but if you have an earthenware pot handy, that will get you a little bit closer to the Sundays I remember back home. I don’t make this every Sunday like my mother did, but I can say I’ve eaten this dish more times in my life than any other meal.
Grill-Roasted Chicken and Tomato–Red Chile Salsa
The more often I grill, the better I get at making the most of my fire. I mean, if you’re going to build a beautiful bed of glowing embers, why not lean into its delicious potential? Case in point: this trussed, golden chicken that crisps to juicy perfection just after you’ve prepped a charred tomato salsa that will be its perfect partner (and make your taco dreams come true). This time-efficient approach to grilling is a gratifying way of respecting the fire; it’s extremely satisfying to work your grill like a range and watch an entire meal come together on the grates.While the chicken roasts, you’ll have plenty of time to finish the salsa, and to prep anything else you want to serve. My PK Grill retains heat exceptionally well, so if I begin with one chimney of coals and a couple of chunks of wood (oak, pecan, or olive), I typically don’t need additional fuel to grill-roast a whole chicken. If the temperature does start to dip to 300°F, I simply add another wood chunk or two or a couple more chunks of lump charcoal or adjust the vents to kick up the fire with more oxygen.One wonderful thing about grill-roasting at a moderate temperature is that you can use your hands to help handle what you’re cooking, which is great when you want to rotate the chicken. If you get too caught up using just tools, you’re more likely to lose balance and pierce the meat or tear the skin. I like to slide a flat metal spatula under the chicken, then use my hands to carefully turn and rotate the bird; it just gives you a little more control, which I appreciate.After the chicken’s done and resting, don’t turn your back on the fire just yet. Char a stack of corn tortillas on the hot grates (conveniently seasoned with tasty rendered chicken fat). Chances are, you’ll have enough heat left to coal-roast eggplant or alliums, or even bake a skillet of brownies, but we’ll get to that later. For now, pass the limes—it’s time for tacos.
Roast Chicken with Cilantro-Mint Chutney
Step into any Indian restaurant and ask for a plate of samosas, and you’ll often find them served with a small bowl of bright green chutney that leaves a fiery tingle on the tip of your tongue. The construction of this alarmingly vivid chutney is quite simple: Fresh herbs, fresh chiles, and a few spices are ground together with a bit of lime juice and water. It’s much like a chimichurri, but with a more powerful punch.Green chutney is called that for a reason—it’s vividly, almost alarmingly verdant in color—but frankly, I think the name does the chutney a disservice. It strips away the nuance and richness from this alluring condiment, which can be made in a thousand different ways. Some versions might contain coconut, while others star herbs like mint or employ unique combinations of spices to add flavor.Those samosa sidekicks aside, green chutney can be much more than a condiment on the edge of a plate. It is bursting with flavor and can take on many roles: toss roasted vegetables in it, or fold it into a bowl of chilled yogurt to make an herby raita. I like to stray even further away from its typical applications and use it to marinate chicken.Roast chicken, whole or separated into pieces, benefits brilliantly from chutney-based marinades. You make the chutney and reserve half as your dipping sauce, while the other half gets folded into creamy, tangy yogurt to make a flavorful marinade for the chicken.Use a serrano or a Thai chile when you want a good dose of heat in the chutney; a jalapeño will work to give you a milder burn. You can lower the spiciness further by stripping away the seeds and the rib at the center. (Or make it as hot as you like, and keep a stash of creamy yogurt on hand—a dollop or two will be just enough of a fire extinguisher for any guests who can’t take the heat.)
Skillet-Roasted Buttermilk Chicken
Simplicity reigns supreme in this classic roast chicken that browns to perfection in your favorite cast-iron skillet. An overnight marinade in buttermilk not only infuses the chicken with flavor, but also ensures a tender bird. We cover the chicken with parchment then foil during roasting to lock in moisture, then discard both for a final broil to get the skin extra bronzed and crispy. Served with a spoonful of lemony-garlicky-schmaltzy pan juices, this is one serious chicken dinner winner.