Picnic Chicken

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: Adam, the kitchen director, and Pedro, a longtime prep cook. Thanks guys!

Café 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.

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 and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. In a 400°F oven, roast legs in a roasting pan or on a cookie sheet for 40-45 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through.  Serve hot, room temp, or cold. (We like cold best.)

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Do you think you could grill the chicken? I am loath to turn the oven on at all, much less for 45 minutes in the summer…


How terrible would it be to use a (decent quality) store-bought orange juice?

Otherwise, this seems life-changing, since plan on doing many after-work/after-daycare picnics at the pool this year.


Is there a decent substitute for soy sauce? Our 4 year old and best chicken eater is allergic to soy. I miss it most in marinades…We love the DALS grilled chicken with yogurt/lemon – life changing!


This sounds delicious! Perfect to make for the beach crowd this weekend. –Laurie – we sub Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for soy sauce.


My kids LOVE drumsticks and I’m always looking for new ways to roast them! Perfect!!


Is there any reason you couldn’t marinate this for a little longer? Say 32 hours? Would love to get this started Sat morning for a Sunday dinner…


Just seconding that Blue Hill at Stone Barns is the best! There is nothing else as beautiful, natural, or well-executed within an hour of NYC. It is kid friendly, dog friendly, and a wonderful place for lunch and a walk when driving anywhere upstate in New York. A total gem!


My “drummie” loving two year old would actually gobble this up (especially after multiple consecutive readings of green eggs and ham)!!!


Made these for a picnic last night…HUGE hit! And really easy. Big points for being able to serve them cold…and for the make ahead factor.


I made this with legs the other day and it was very very good. I did use TJ’s OJ not fresh-squeezed and I think that was fine. I am marinating a whole cut up chicken and 2 whole breasts with bone and skin for fourth of july tomorrow, I don’t know why the breasts would not be good? Will let you know.


Holy moley these are delish! Just made them to bring to fireworks tonight. I used GF soy sauce because I have Celiac. Super easy — will definitely make them again! Thanks.


The breasts and wings came out great as well, I just adjusted the cooking time, larger pieces needed a few more minutes in the oven, next time I will try it on the grill.


Looks great! Did you leave the skin on or off? And do you turn chicken during oven time?


Ditto the question about marinade — do you cook chix in marinade or drain first? Thanks, my 24 hour marinated legs are about to go in the oven!


I left the skin on and I turned the larger pieces once, the smaller pieces, the wings and legs, I did not turn over. The skin was crispy and good.

Robyn Vulcano

Seriously! This is so perfect for summer. I marinated wednesday baked thursday afternoon. Walked in the door at 7 from the pool and served this with Coleslaw. Everyone was happy. Even the baby (7 months) liked it.

Suzanne Martin

This is the best chicken I’ve tasted in a very long time and the advanced prep is the bomb!


I have the DALS book and have been following your blog for a while, but this is the first recipe that I attempted off of your blog/book! You made it sound so delicious and the photo of your daughter enjoying it sealed the deal for me.

Anyway, I am a newbie cook (and I actually do not like cooking, so meals are sometimes challenging at my house) but, I’m happy to say that the cafe chicken was a hit. My kids (8, 3 and 2) enjoyed it very much and I was surprised at how easy it was and that the chicken was moist. I might add a bit more of the seasonings next time to give it more flavor, but I was very pleased with how it turned out. My toddlers even asked for seconds! That doesn’t happen often when I cook. ;)

I love your blog, and I hope to gain more courage and try more recipes soon.


LOVED this chicken! I baked it for an hour at 300 and then my husband finished it on the grill with applewood smoked chips and it was so good. My 7 year old called it “the best chicken EVER!”. Served it with coleslaw and Callie’s cheddar and chive biscuits and it was the perfect summer dinner! Thank you DALS for another great summer staple recipe.


I used chicken breasts and grilled them and everyone loved them! What a great recipe!!


Just made this with a summery caprese, sweet potato fries, and some dressed greens. Once I popped the chicken in the oven I had time to make a delicious G&T with thin-sliced cucumbers which then inspired an impromptu quick-pickling session. (I used DALS’ quick-pickled onions recipe with a few sliced TJ’s persian cucumbers) The tart cucumbers were SO good next to the chicken…an accidental favorite part of the meal. My daughters (2&5) chowed. It’s officially on the family favorites list! Thank you!!


The pictures you have here look so yummy. I initially wanted to give this recipe a try. But since I’m going to NYC for the upcoming holiday, I thought I ought to pay a visit to the Blue Hill Cafe first before trying it on my own. Another day in my itinerary list is completed. Thanks!


My husband rarely deems a recipe a “keeper” unless it’s asian inspired and comes with a heaping side of white rice, but he just couldn’t get enough of the picnic chicken. He ate 4 legs and then picked at the crispy bits stuck to the sheet tray after all of the chicken was gone! Thanks for putting a new keeper into our dinner rotation :)


Just wanted to say thanks for this recipe! We make it ALL OF THE TIME. Seriously. A round of chicken legs are in the oven as we speak, so they’re ready for dinner at a friend’s house tonight. Hope it’s a beautiful day where you are. Thanks for the continued dinner inspiration!