Spring Chickens with Green Marinade

For a couple of seasons, clubhouse manager Henry Genzalez hired me to bring trays and trays of food down for the Seattle Mariners’ after-game meal. Considering that a bunch of millionaire players and managers were going to be eating this food, I started out cooking fancy restaurant dishes. But I soon found out that what most of the players really liked was chicken and steak. I must have cooked this chicken dish a couple of dozen times for them, and it remains one of my favorites. These chickens marinate overnight in a thick green herb pesto before being pan-browned and then roasted. Substitute some of your favorite herbs for the ones specified in the recipe, but definitely use a few assertive herbs, like rosemary and marjoram. Be sure to serve the deliciously herby pan juices with the chicken.

NotesMake the marinade and marinate the chicken a day ahead.

 If you are making the whole menu, you can brown the chicken just ahead of the arrival of your guests and leave it at room temperature. Then, when you are ready to make the risotto, slip the pan of chicken into your preheated oven. The chicken and risotto will be ready at about the same time.


Remove the neck, heart, gizzard, and liver from the chicken. Cut off the fat and excess skin from the neck and tail ends.

Place the chicken on a work surface, breast side up, and cut off the wings at the first joint (closest to the breast). Then cut off the leg and thigh by cutting through the skin into the natural division between the leg and the body. Bend the leg away from the body and cut down between the thighbone joint and the hip socket. Cut the leg away from the body as close to the backbone as possible. Repeat with the other leg and thigh. Separate the drumstick from the thigh by cutting down through the joint that separates the two. Repeat with the other drumstick and thigh.

To remove the backbone, insert a large heavy knife into the chicken’s cavity and cut down through the rib bones on each side of the backbone, chopping down through the collarbone to free the backbone completely. Or use kitchen or poultry shears to cut out the backbone.

Place the chicken on the work surface breast side up and use a large heavy knife or poultry shears to cut the breast in half, cutting through the breastbone. If you like, you can divide each half-breast in half, into two equal pieces.

If you are making the whole menu, you can brown the chicken just ahead of the arrival of your guests and leave it at room temperature. Then, when you are ready to make the risotto, slip the pan of chicken into your preheated oven. The chicken and risotto will be ready at about the same time.

Cooking Methodpan-frying, roasting


Total Timea day or more

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentfood processor

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Textureherby, savory


  • 2 chickens (about 3½ pounds each), cut into 8 pieces each (2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 wings), or 16 pieces total
  • 1 cup chopped scallion, white and green parts
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup sliced fresh chives
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • About ¼ cup olive oil, as needed, for browning the chicken
  • 1 lemon, cut in half


  1. Trim excess fat from the chicken pieces. Rinse them under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels, and place them in a nonreactive pan.

  2. Combine the scallion, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, gradually adding the oil last to emulsify. The marinade will be very thick, like a pesta. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces and coat the pieces on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

  3. To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat 2 large sauté pans over medium-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of oil in each pan. If you don’t have 2 large sauté pans, brown the chicken in batches.

  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving any excess marinade. Put the chicken pieces in the pans skin side down and sauté until the skin is nicely browned.

  5. Turn and brown the other side, adjusting the heat between medium and medium-high as necessary so you don’t burn the chicken. When the chicken pieces are browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes total for each piece, transfer them to a roasting pan.

  6. Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken and throw the lemon halves into the pan. Scrape any extra marinade into the roasting pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked, the juices run clear, and the thigh meat reads 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven.

  7. Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and arrange on a platter. You can cut the chicken breasts in half first so your guests can choose both white and dark meat. Whisk the pan juices to break up any clumps of the marinade and drizzle a little over the chicken. Pour the rest of the pan juices into a gravy boat, discarding the lemon halves, and pass with the chicken.


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