I know we are only a day or two into summer, but I can safely say that this chicken Abby is eating is going to be my go-to recipe of the season. In this particular photo, my midfielder is loving it a few hours after a 2-1 loss, but I am pretty sure she would be just as happy to maul it after a victory, or a tie, or for a quick bite before her graduation dance, or in her camp lunchbox, or for a grab-and-go snack out of the fridge after a swim, or with a group of friends for an end-of-the-year party, or in a box or with a fox, or in the dark, or in a tree…
They are so good, so good you see!
As anyone who’s read this blog knows already, we are big fans of Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. Any time there’s nothing to do on a weekend afternoon (or even when there are a million things to do), you will find us sitting in the courtyard there eating their homemade bologna sandwiches (topped with teeny-tiny pickled vegetables), or chopped egg salad on toast, or farro salad with vegetables, or still-warm scones and lattes and chocolate chip cookies. Everything they serve comes right from the surrounding fields, and is a study in simple, farm-fresh deliciousness. I could eat everything on the menu. And often do.
So I do not say it lightly when I say that this chicken is the main draw for us these days. It’s slightly sweet, slightly smoky, and it is perfect when served cold or room temp, which means it’s perfect for advance summer entertaining or barbecues when you’re not sure the kids are going to go for the grilled whole mackerel or duck with cherry compote that you really really want to serve the grown-ups.
The good news is that the nice folks at Blue Hill have shared the recipe with us and it looks like all that flavor comes from (surprise) a 24-hour marinade. The marinade originated and evolved with two guys from Blue Hill: Pedro Cajilima, a longtime prep cook, and Adam Kaye, the kitchen director. Thanks guys!
(Top photo updated June 2022)
Café Chicken, aka Picnic Chicken
This marinade makes enough for 4 pounds of chicken, which sounds like a lot, but works out to about three or pieces each for four people, with some leftovers for lunch, snack, picnics, whatever. The cafe only sells legs, but we think it’s also delicious with thighs. (Update: Nearly a decade after I first wrote about this recipe, it remains one of the most popular on the blog and in my house. I particularly love to make it when I’m dropping off a food care package with someone — it’s great at room temperature, inoffensive to most kids, and not the usual carby casserole type thing most likely already crowding up their refrigerators. — June 2022)
½ cup good quality soy sauce
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon mild smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 pounds chicken legs and thighs
Place all ingredients except the olive oil, s & p, and chicken into the bowl of a blender. Puree for 30 seconds on high.
With the motor running, slowly add the oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Pour marinade over chicken (in a zip top bag or a baking dish) and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 400°F, remove the chicken from the bag, letting most of the sauce fall off, and place pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast chicken for 40-45 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through. Serve hot, room temp, or cold.