October 8, 2018
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A Greener, Spicier Roast Chicken

Leftover greens make an okay salad, but they make an even better roast chicken.

There I was again, staring at the arugula and kale, which, just like bad house guests, were close to overstaying their welcome in the back space of the drawer in my refrigerator. Visions of wilt-y leaves drizzled with vinaigrette filled my mind, but I was hungry for something warm and savory and a little bit spicy.

In India, where I grew up, bright-green herb-based condiments called chutneys are common. A typical setup involved a bunch of fresh cilantro, maybe a bit of mint on occasion, fresh peppers for heat, and a generous squirt of lime juice to brighten things up, all blended to create a chutney. We’d eat this as a dipping sauce for samosas or folded into yogurt to make a green raita or smear it generously between layers of buttered bread to make sandwiches. When I moved to Cincinnati some 15 years ago, I ate out a lot, as a way to experience America, my new home. I’d visit the Italian restaurant near my school, where I tried pesto, which was similar to the chutney I was familiar with but rich with olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan and notably absent of heat.

I tend to pick up arugula and kale on my trips to the farmers’ market or the grocery store for their flavor—arugula’s mild pepperiness and kale’s gentle bitterness. And unlike some herbs, they don’t blacken easily when bruised and hold on to their verdant nature. If anything, these leftover greens in my refrigerator were ideal candidates for some sort of condiment consideration. So off they went into my blender, with a few serrano chiles, a bit of onion, lime juice, and olive oil along with a bit of whole seed spices, caraway, coriander and cumin and blended gently just enough to shatter the seeds and to get a mixture with a thick and coarse texture.

This hot green chutney made a good dip, it made a good spread, and I even smeared it over a bit of pita and threw some shredded cheese on top, which melted away. I drizzled a little over warm roasted potatoes. I snuck some into the space between the skin and the flesh of a whole chicken and let it marinate before sticking it into a hot oven. The fat dripped away to create a dark amber-colored crispy skin that encased a bird, seasoned with the flavors of the greens, the peppers, the spices, and the acidity of the lime, all of which had permeated the meat. I cut it apart with a knife and excitedly tore some of the flesh away, dunking it into a bit of the extra chutney that sat aside in a bowl.

Here was a hot and herb-y condiment born out of a need to adapt to not only what was available and out of necessity to reduce waste but also out of experiences that I now remembered and stored in the back of my mind from living in my two homes, India and America, techniques and ingredients that I learned in each of these countries. They were now together—one in my bowl of hot green chutney and lathered inside my now golden-brown, crispy roasted chicken, and it tasted good.


  • 1 (5-lb) whole roasting chicken
  • 1 ½ cup Hot Green Chutney
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Hot Green Chutney
  • 2 cups arugula leaves
  • 1 cup packed baby kale leaves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Arbequina
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 serrano chiles
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Excerpted from Nik Sharma’s Season.

Roasting chickens during pockets of spare time on the weekends pays huge dividends during busy weeks. A whole chicken can feed a lot of people, and for a family of two like ours, it lasts a few days. Plus, a roasted chicken can be repurposed for an endless number of dishes, including salad, sandwiches, mac and cheese… the possibilities are endless. In this nifty roast chicken, I lace the meat with green chutney and serve extra on the side for dunking.

You can flavor a whole chicken with almost any savory condiment or sauce you love. The trick is to keep the sauce between the skin and the flesh, because the layer of fat in the skin helps the chicken retain its moisture while the flavors in the marinade (green chutney, in this case) penetrate the flesh. The combination of spices and acid in the chutney helps tenderize the chicken and flavor it simultaneously. Basting the chicken with the drippings and broth ensures that the meat will be tender, juicy, and flavorful.

    Hot Green Chutney

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse on medium-low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until you get a coarse paste. You might need to stop the blender to move things around. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 1 month in the freezer.

Roasted Chicken

  1. Put the chicken in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Slip your fingers between the skin and flesh to loosen the skin. Massage ½ cup of the chutney all over the meat, spreading to coat as evenly as possible. Rub generously with salt over the skin. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.
  2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Unwrap the chicken and pour the broth into the pan. Roast the chicken for at least 2 hours, basting it with the broth every 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer and the skin turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Tent loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes. (Collect any liquid left behind in the pan and cover and refrigerate or freeze for future use, such as soup.)
  3. Serve the chicken warm with the remaining 1 cup green chutney on the side for a dipping sauce.

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma is an award-winning freelance food writer and photographer. He also writes a recipe-based food column for the San Francisco Chronicle called A Brown Kitchen and is also the author of the blog A Brown Table. His first cookbook, Season (Chronicle Books), was published in October 2018. He lives in Oakland, California.

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