ROAST CHICKEN and a big salad will always be one of my favorite dinners to serve guests at home. It is a perfect mix of cozy and fresh, especially suitable in the spring, when the salad can be generous with baby lettuce.
Two platters of food are all you need for this easy spring dinner: one loaded with yogurt-brine chicken halves, the other spring veggies with baked dates. Add a loaf of bread and a make-ahead spiced green sauce to drag slices of chicken through. I like to put the dishes right on the table and have the guests pass them around, share and come back for more if they want. This passing and re-passing doesn’t just put people in charge of what’s on their plate; it also creates a natural movement and connection that nourishes more than just bellies.
More than ever, gathering for a celebratory dinner is a useful ritual to bring into our lives. It’s uplifting, it’s satisfying and it’s a lot of fun. With a little planning, it can be just as much fun for the host as it is for the guests.
A roast chicken will almost always taste better if you give it a chance to sit in some seasoning overnight. I like a yogurt brine. I always have yogurt in my fridge; mixed with salt and slathered over chicken overnight, it works just as well as a traditional buttermilk brine, and I love the tartness it adds. I cut my chickens (two for a group of six to eight) in half before brining and roasting them. Simply remove the spine with kitchen scissors and then divide the bird through the breast. Despite the dismissal, this act feels less sassy than a spatchcock and is certainly easier to fathom. Or ask your butcher to do it for you.
Half chickens are easier to handle than whole birds. You roast two chickens flat on a single baking sheet, faster and more evenly. In about 45 minutes, my yogurt pickled chicken halves are extra crispy and golden on the outside, juicy on the inside.
The salad on this menu is inspired by a salad at Sofreh, my favorite Persian restaurant in Brooklyn. It had chunks of date and a tahini dressing that I have been trying to make ever since. To give the dates a crispy outside, I fry them in a little olive oil. Make sure to keep the slices separate as you fry them – they’re sticky little things. For the dressing I use my favorite tahini sauce, diluted with lemon juice and olive oil.
†More than ever, gathering for a celebratory dinner is a useful ritual to bring into our lives.†
How you prepare greens for a salad makes a world of difference in the end result. Wash gently and well, then twist or shake dry, then lay out the greens to air dry on a clean kitchen towel. Allowing them to dry completely will help the dressing coat evenly and stick to the greens. I try to do this the morning of a dinner party, then I gently bundle my veggies in a kitchen towel, put the whole package in my salad bowl, and keep it in the fridge until it’s time to serve. Don’t make the salad until just before you’re ready to eat, and use your hands to spoon and toss the dressing over the leaves, and your beautiful veggies won’t be crushed, smashed, or wilted by sharp utensils or tongs. Then use your hands (again, yes!) to transfer the salad to a platter and sprinkle with plenty of crunchy spring radish slices, fragrant dill leaves, chives, and those crunchy dates.
Pass on the chicken, pass on the green sauce, too, and don’t forget to be thankful you can gather friends around your table this spring.
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This recipe can easily be halved to serve 3-4, if that’s the size of your party.
- 2 cups full-fat yogurt
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 chicken halves (or 2 chickens, backbones removed, cut in half through the sternum)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, salt, and 1 cup water. Place the chicken halves in a quart size resealable bag and pour over the yogurt mixture. Seal, squeeze out all the air and toss to coat the chicken well. Chill overnight or up to 2 days.
- When you’re ready to roast, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it warm up slightly while you heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from bag, shake off excess yogurt and arrange, skin side up, in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast the chicken in the top third of the oven, turning the pan once, halfway through cooking, until skin is golden brown and crispy, and an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast registers 155 degrees, 35-45 minutes . (The temperature will rise to 165 when the chicken rests.) Let the chicken halves rest on the pan for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Serve on a cutting board with a sharp knife, or cut into quarters and place on a serving platter.
Inspired by spicy, spicy North African chermoula, this sauce is both warming and refreshing.
- 1 serrano chili, stemless and cut into a few pieces
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, toughest stalks removed
- 1 bunch fresh coriander
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.
- This sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
This recipe can easily be halved to serve 3-4 if that’s the size of your party. After making the dressing for this salad you will have leftover tahini sauce. Decadently creamy yet dairy-free, it gives an extra dose of richness to vegetables, crisp and raw or simply roasted.
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 small heads of lettuce, such as little gem, baby Bibb or baby romaine
- 6 radishes, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh chives and/or fresh dill, as a topping
For the tahini sauce:
For the salad:
- Make the tahini sauce: In a small bowl, whisk tahini, lemon juice, salt, and ¼ cup water until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more water to get a pourable consistency. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Before making, bring to room temperature or whisk in a small splash of warm water to loosen it.
- Make the salad: Cut the root base off each head of lettuce, then separate, inspect, and discard any leaves that are severely bruised, wilted, or browned. Wash the leaves gently, drain or spin in a salad spinner and place in a single layer on a clean dishcloth until completely dry. Carefully bundle the dry leaves in the damp tea towel and put them in the fridge (preferably in your salad bowl) for up to 8 hours.
- Place thinly sliced radishes in a resealable container, cover with ice and water, and refrigerate for up to 1 day. (Not only can this trick prep your radishes ahead of time, but it also makes them extra crispy, which is great.) Ice-water crunch. When you are ready to assemble the salad, drain the radishes well in a colander and shake off as much excess water as possible.
- Just before serving, in a large cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add date strips, toss to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, until dates are crisp and dark, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Transfer lettuce and radishes to a large bowl and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss gently with your hands to combine.
- Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons tahini sauce and lemon juice, then drizzle over salad and toss gently with your hands to coat. Taste a dressed leaf and add more salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter (using your hands to avoid bruising the delicate leaves) and top with baked dates, chives and/or dill and freshly ground black pepper.
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