Weeknight Cooking

Finger-Lickin' Finger Lakes Chicken

September 12, 2011

Finger-Lickin' Finger Lakes Chicken

- Jenny

The universe may be telling you that grilling season is ending. It could be in the lavender suddenly streaking the sky at night, or the chill that is oddly in the air at 6 PM. Maybe it’s the slip ‘n slide rotting in the back yard. Or the onset of fall illnesses, for which you walk to the CVS for children’s Tylenol and some bubble bath, the latter of which you can’t find so you buy $20 wrinkle cream instead, and step on the corpse of a cicada on the way home.

Shop the Story

But do not listen to the universe until you have made Finger-Lickin’ Finger Lakes Chicken. This recipe is about the best thing I can think to do with a bone-in chicken breast, and most of the work is done for you while you sleep or sit at work, wondering what you’re supposed to think about Burma (or is it Myanmar?) and why that guy who always wears checked shirts feels compelled to microwave his fish for lunch.

This is one of those recipes that one might read and say “Really?” a few times. Like when you realize you need an entire cup of grapeseed oil. Ditto for the Champagne vinegar. For the life of me, I do not understand why I make the lovely aioli, then put away half of it for future use. (I dutifully doubled this recipe, so I could offer four breasts to the neighbor night, but used only a cup-and-a-half of the oil and vinegar while doubling everything else.)

I cut up the rest of my herbs left in the garden (again! universe!) which meant lots of oregano and sage, a fair amount of thyme and not much rosemary. Any combination you have should work well and be liberal with your herbs.

Whipping this up takes about five minutes, then into the fridge the chicken breasts go for their 8-hour nap amongst the raw eggs.

When you get home, take your chicken out for 15 minutes or so while you fire up the grill, and put up some broccoli or mix up a salad while your chicken cooks. I know wssmom says to cook the chicken 15 to 20 minutes, but our bad boys were raw in the middle after 20 minutes, so my husband flipped them at that point and let them cook another five minutes bone up, before turning them once more to brown for another five.

These breasts are uncommonly juicy and extremely flavorful, both smoky and tangy, but not in that pucker way you might have figured. We ate it hot, but this chicken is mighty fine cold, too. Even though it rained in Brooklyn the day the Food52 crew shot this, causing them to pan roast the dish in the oven, my view is that this dish should not be replicated off the grill. So make it before the bathing suits and sunscreen are swapped out for scarves and earmuffs in the hall closet. I suspect you will want to do so twice.

Finger-Lickin’ Finger Lakes Chicken by wssmom

Serves 4

Fresh Herb Aioli:


  • 1 large organic egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 minced clove garlic
  • 1 cup champagne vinegar (yes, one cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

  • In a suitable bowl, preferably one that won't spin around, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice and garlic. Add the oil a few drops at a time (or have someone do that for you), whisking until it emulsifies. Continue to dribble in the oil, whisking away, until all is incorporated.

  • Put half the aioli in another bowl, saving the remainder for another use. Whisk in the vinegar, add the herbs and add a tad more salt than you think neccessary, about a teaspoon in my case.


Finger Lakes Chicken:


  • 2 whole organic chicken breasts, split so you have four nice-sized pieces

  • Liberally sprinkle the chicken breasts with freshly ground pepper, put them in a ziplock bag with the aoili, smush so they are covered, and let marinate for at least three hours, or preferably overnight.

  • Grill, bone side down and covered, over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, then turn and crank up the grill to high to finish, so that the skin gets nice and crispy.

  • Chill and bring along to your picnic, and serve along with some lovely dry riesling.


Like Jenny? Read on as she wrangles beans, whoopie pies, and beyond.

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer



Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ejm
  • deanna1001
  • boulangere
  • drbabs
  • Bevi
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


ejm September 16, 2011
Deanna 1001, I too am grill less and love this marinade - so yesterday I combined this with Amandas Chicken under a Brick - with all the oil it browned up very fast, even with low heat, so to finish it I turned it over and popped it in the oven for a bit - not as great as on the grill but an acceptable alternative.

A version of this marinade is used at a famous local firehouse summer fundraiser where I am from (Eastern Long Island) and this is really great to have as an alternative.

deanna1001 September 16, 2011
Sounds like an interesting technique for this - I'm going to experiment with half roasting, half broiling and see how that works out. (I love that brick recipe also!) And next time I visit a friend with a grill, will do it as per recipe so I can compare.

Thanks for weighing in.
deanna1001 September 13, 2011
When I had a house I grilled year round. I have pictures of burgers on the grill level with the snow! But now I'm only a metro cook without a grill. Wondering - would broiling work better than pan roasting? Isn't a broiler just an upside down grill? (I keep telling myself that as I gingerly put cedar planks and other items not usually associated with apartment cooking in there...)
Jestei September 14, 2011
i hope amanda et al weigh in here because i did not try it this way
boulangere September 12, 2011
I remember how great this sounded when she posted it. Thanks for the nudge. Hope the children feel better. Poor cicada.
Jestei September 13, 2011
it's a short life, that of a cicada.
drbabs September 12, 2011
I've been meaning to try this. Thanks for the reminder.
Jestei September 13, 2011
i hope you let us know how you like it.
Bevi September 12, 2011
This sounds so good. I am going to whip this up this week!
Jestei September 13, 2011
i hope you like it
wssmom September 12, 2011
Haha "step on the corpse of a cicada" I always LOVE this column (and glad you liked the chicken!!)
Jestei September 13, 2011
thanks so much for posting this recipe it is such a winner and as you can see has lots of fans
EmilyC September 12, 2011
I've had my eye on this recipe for a long time. That picture just sealed the deal...must try this soon!
Jestei September 13, 2011
please do!
EmilyNunn September 12, 2011
I cannot wait.
Jestei September 13, 2011
i hope you like it!
inpatskitchen September 12, 2011
I made this shortly after wssmom posted it with a couple of minor changes...I did a whole chicken halved and because of my fear of underdone chicken, threw it in the oven after grilling for about 20 minutes. A truly remarkable recipe!!
And I agree with aargersi...even here in Michigan we grill year round!
Jestei September 13, 2011
yes my husband has been known to stand outside in a full parka
aargersi September 12, 2011
This really is the BEST grilled chicken you will ever eat. We have been making it all summer since testing and it never disappoints ....

And here we have, oh, 4 more months left in real grilling season plus those couple of months where grilling is not out of the question if one is just slightly hard-headed about it
Jestei September 13, 2011
that's so funny. you're right.