Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Cornichon Butter

February 20, 2018
6 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 24 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

A simple roasted chicken may be one of the greatest, most satisfying things a home cook can master, but I’m not sure there’s anything that can send me into such a dizzying tailspin of questions. To brine or not to brine? If yes to brine, then a dry or wet one? And if a wet brine, what ratio of salt to liquid, what type of liquid, and for how long to soak? Should I marinate instead? Or go super simple with salt and pepper? Should I roast high and fast or low and slow? Truss? Spatchcock? Sear first on the stovetop? Just order pizza?

At some point, these questions are not a productive way to get dinner on the table. As much as I adore roasted chicken, I realized a while back that I was roasting fewer birds because of my tendency to overthink every single detail. To get back to weekly roast chicken dinners, I needed a preparation so simple, foolproof, and flexible that I’d turn to it again and again without second-guessing anything.

I found that preparation in this buttermilk roast chicken. It relies on a super-simple brine: 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup pickle juice, 1 teaspoon salt. It’s so easy to remember; I can have a chicken soaking in the brine and all of the mess cleaned up in the time it typically takes me to find my phone to look up a recipe. From there, I like to rub a little olive oil on the chicken, then give it a blast of high heat. I haven’t found a better, simpler way to get a beautifully bronzed, crackly-skinned, well-seasoned bird every time.

If submerging a whole bird in buttermilk and pickle juice seems a little odd, consider fried chicken. Many fried chicken recipes start with a buttermilk marinade for its tenderizing effect (or a quick buttermilk dunk before the chicken is dredged in flour or crumbs), and many others call for a pickle juice brine for even seasoning and insurance against dry meat. Some recipes call for combining buttermilk and pickle juice to get the best of both worlds: tender, juicy, well-seasoned meat. So I figured, why not give roast chicken the same treatment? Like with fried chicken, the pickle juice imparts an ever-so-subtle, tangy flavor to the surface of the roasted bird.

With this roasted chicken, I always take the opportunity to tuck as many potatoes around the bird as possible so they’ll soak up the delicious pan drippings. To make the potatoes even more delicious, I toss them in cornichon butter and parsley while the chicken is resting. The idea for smashing chopped cornichons and softened butter together comes from Paula Wolfert’s Pan Seared Pork Chops with Cornichon Butter, a recipe in Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life. The cornichons brighten up the rich potatoes and lend a nice crunch (like a warm, buttery potato salad).

I will never stop experimenting with roasted chicken—new flavor combinations, new techniques—but this preparation will be my go-to for all of the times in between when I want a delicious dinner that requires no decisions beyond what bottle of wine to serve. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Cornichon Butter
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup pickle juice, from any type of pickles (dill, bread and butter, spicy garlic, etc.)
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes, halved, or small golden potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick (up to 2 pounds of potatoes)
  • 1 splash olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 4 cornichons, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Mix together buttermilk, pickle juice, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Place chicken in a gallon-sized plastic zipper-lock bag. Pour in the brine. Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate 6 to 24 hours (a longer brine will result in a more flavorful bird).
  2. About an hour before you roast the chicken, remove chicken from the bag and discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub a little olive oil on the bottom of a large baking dish or ovenproof skillet (one large enough to hold the potatoes). Place the chicken in the middle of the dish, breast-side up, and let it come to room temperature.
  3. Heat oven to 425° F.
  4. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Arrange potatoes around the chicken. Evenly rub the chicken with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with a little extra salt and black pepper.
  5. Place the chicken and potatoes in the oven and roast for about 50 to 70 minutes, rotating once, until the juices run clear or the thickest part of the thigh registers 165° F. (If the chicken is browning too quickly relative to its internal temperature, reduce the oven to 375° F to 400° F.)
  6. Meanwhile, mash together the butter and cornichons with a fork. Don’t worry if they’re not completely integrated.
  7. When the chicken is done, immediately remove it from the pan and rest on a cutting board for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Add the cornichon butter and parsley to the hot potatoes. Once it starts to melt, toss to evenly integrate.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Anna Bing
    Anna Bing
  • Diane Rockhill
    Diane Rockhill
  • Henry
  • meganvt01
  • Sierra Scott-Anderson
    Sierra Scott-Anderson

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

25 Reviews

Chuck February 4, 2021
Just cooked this evening - juicy, tender, although not the tang that I expected. The skin did not bronze all over; exposed skin darkened very quickly - have to wonder if lower temp would have crisped more of the entirety. Potatoes were excellent.
jayellzee November 29, 2020
Made the chicken portion of this recipe this weekend for my quarantine pod and it was a HUGE hit. Doubled the buttermilk and pickle juice, added some spice rub into the brine, and rubbed additional rub on the chicken when I took it out of the fridge. Soooo incredibly tender and the flavor is so unique and delicious. I found myself sneaking tastes while carving! I’ve made a lot of roast chickens and this was definitely a stand out!
Anna B. November 11, 2020
Hi Emily! I'm thinking of making this for Thanksgiving (we're not turkey people). If I were to double the recipe, i.e. 2 chickens, how would you adjust the cooking time? Thanks so much!
Kathleen January 5, 2020
The video that first showed this recipe (which brought me to this page) said the oven should be at 450 degrees? I'm going with what is written here though, as it seems more logical.
EmilyC January 6, 2020
Hi Kathleen, not sure about the discrepancy but to be safe, I’d stick to 425!
Diane R. December 29, 2019
I prepared this recipe just as directed. The chicken was amazingly moist, even though I left it in a bit longer than I should have. ( hence, the benefit of brining.) The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. The addition of the cornichon butter was a nice addition. This recipe will be my go-to Sunday dinner.
EmilyC December 30, 2019
So glad you made and liked this, Diane! Thanks so much for your note!
Amy April 10, 2018
How do you come up with that much pickle juice on a regular basis? The recipe looks good, but I roast a chicken pretty often
Paul April 8, 2018
2 cups of brine doesn't seem enough to cover a whole you add water to top or do you flip it during the brine or what? Thanks.
EmilyC April 8, 2018
Hi Paul: I like to put the chicken and brine in a large ziplock bag and press out the air—there should be enough brine to cover the bird. If not, flip the bag a few times during its brining time. Or, no reason you can’t increase the brine as long as it’s the same ratio of buttermilk to pickle juice! Hope this helps!
Henry March 29, 2018
Surprisingly bland. Marinated for 20 hours and cooked it on the grill. Nice and moist, but very little interest for flavors. Could be a regional thing...maybe this is exciting for mid-westerners, but pretty boring for people accustomed to more flavorful cuisine.
EmilyC March 30, 2018
Hi Henry: I like to think of the buttermilk/pickle juice brine as a way to ensure tender, juicy, well-seasoned meat every time. If you want bigger, bolder flavors for a grilled version, you could add a spice rub to the chicken before it goes on the grill, baste it with a sauce, etc.
Henry March 30, 2018
Fair enough...I was just hoping the buttermilk and pickle juice would impart more tangy flavor itself. It definitely turned out juicy though!
Melissa March 15, 2019
Wow Henry, why must you use your lack of knowledge and understanding of flavors to malign mid-westerners?
meganvt01 March 11, 2018
This was fantastic. Made with pee wee potatoes. Can’t wait to make it again.
EmilyC March 11, 2018
I’m so happy to know that you tried and liked this, Megan!! I love pee wee potatoes—good choice. Thanks so much for your note!
tenmiler March 11, 2018
How about doing this with a spatchcocked chicken? Ever since I learned how to spatchcock a chicken and how much easier it is to cook, I don't do anything but!
EmilyC March 11, 2018
Yes, a spatchcocked bird will work well! It’ll cook faster, so you may need extra time for the potatoes. Enjoy! : )
Katie March 11, 2018
If I don't want to make a whole chicken, do you think this would work with skin-on chicken breasts?
Cathy G. March 11, 2018
same question, hope the answer is yes!
EmilyC March 11, 2018
Lysa H. March 11, 2018
Would you use the same 425 temperature for skin-on breasts or even thighs?
EmilyC March 11, 2018
Yes, start them at 425, and then lower the heat if they’ve browned but aren’t cooked through. I like the blast of high heat so the chicken gets bronzed and the skin crackly. Note that with breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, the cook time will be less, which means the potatoes may not be tender in the same amount of time. If this is the case, just leave the potatoes in the oven while the chicken rests!
Sierra S. March 7, 2018
Sounds delicious. Does the oven temp get reduced after the initial sear at 425?
EmilyC March 8, 2018
Hi Sierra: I keep the oven at 425 the full time! If the chicken is browning too quickly, you can lower the heat to 375 or 400.