Buttermilk-Baked Chicken With Chimichurri Recipe

Many marinades are made with citrus juice, wine, or vinegar, but lactic acid can also help to tenderize meat. While some marinade recipes call for yogurt, here developer Kara Barrett is using buttermilk to pre-soak her chicken. The result, she says, is a "slight tang and the incredible browning" and meat she describes as "swoonworthy," although we'd advise extra caution in the kitchen if tasty food really does make you woozy.

As for the sauce, Barrett tells us, "The chimichurri provides a wonderfully salty and tart contrast" to the relatively simple chicken. Surprisingly enough, though, you only need a few ingredients — eight in all — to make both elements of the recipe. While the chicken and chimichurri combo tastes great on the first day, it might be even better as leftovers that are eaten straight out of the fridge (no need to reheat). If you have any extra chimichurri, it can make for a versatile salad dressing, while you could also use it as a sauce for other types of meat or vegetables or even as a dip for tortilla chips or pita triangles.

Gather the ingredients for the buttermilk-baked chicken with chimichurri

Barrett makes this recipe with chicken leg quarters marinated in buttermilk. If you'd prefer not to buy a quart of the stuff and risk letting half of it go to waste, you can always stir a few tablespoons of vinegar or lemon into some plain milk to make a two-ingredient buttermilk replacement. The chimichurri is a fairly simple one, too, as it's made with nothing more than salt, garlic, parsley, olive oil. lemon juice and zest, and crushed red pepper.

Step 1: Sprinkle the chicken with salt

Salt the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt.

Step 2: Marinate the chicken in buttermilk

To a freezer bag, add the chicken legs, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Make sure the chicken is fully submerged in the buttermilk, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight for best results.

Step 3: Mash the garlic with salt

In a small mortar, smash the garlic into a paste with ½ teaspoon salt.

Step 4: Mash the parsley with the garlic

Add the parsley and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and mash until pulpy.

Step 5: Stir in the oil and lemon

Add the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Step 6: Add the crushed red pepper

Stir well to combine, then add the red pepper flakes. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Step 7: Chill the chimichurri

Cover and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

Step 8: Warm up the chicken and oven

Let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking (1–2 hours), then preheat the oven to 450 F.

Step 9: Cook the chicken

In a cast iron skillet or oven-safe dish, bake the chicken quarters for 40 minutes, or until the meat is golden brown and cooked through and the juices run clear.

Step 10: Let the chicken sit for a bit

Rest for 15 minutes.

Step 11: Eat the chicken with chimichurri

Serve the chicken with chimichurri drizzled on top.

Buttermilk-Baked Chicken With Chimichurri Recipe
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A buttermilk brine helps bring whole chicken quarters to perfect tenderness, and a few pantry staples combine to make an herby chimichurri topping.
Prep Time
9.5
hours
Cook Time
40
minutes
Servings
2
servings
chicken and parsley in pan
Total time: 10 hours, 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Directions
  1. Salt the chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. To a freezer bag, add the chicken legs, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Make sure the chicken is fully submerged in the buttermilk, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight for best results.
  3. In a small mortar, smash the garlic into a paste with ½ teaspoon salt.
  4. Add the parsley and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and mash until pulpy.
  5. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  6. Stir well to combine, then add the red pepper flakes. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.
  7. Cover and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
  8. Let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking (1–2 hours), then preheat the oven to 450 F.
  9. In a cast iron skillet or oven-safe dish, bake the chicken quarters for 40 minutes, or until the meat is golden brown and cooked through and the juices run clear.
  10. Rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Serve the chicken with chimichurri drizzled on top.
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Can I cook this buttermilk chicken recipe with thighs or breasts?

Chicken quarters tend to be an especially economical cut, so they may make for the most budget-friendly version of this recipe. If you don't really care for dark meat, you may substitute chicken breasts instead. You could also use just thighs alone, or even drumsticks if this is what you happen to have in the freezer. (As long as you thaw them first, of course.) Barrett does say, though, that "I'd recommend bone-in chicken because it tends to be more flavorful," adding that you can save the cooked bones to use for making bone broth or stock.

Barrett notes, however, that using different pieces of chicken may affect the amount of time the meat takes to cook. While her recipe calls for 40 minutes in the oven for chicken quarters, drumsticks may take just 35 minutes while breasts (particularly if you choose boneless ones) could be cooked in 30 minutes. As oven temperatures vary, even if you do stick with quarters, your best bet is to use a meat thermometer and remove the chicken once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.

Can I use a food processor to make chimichurri?

Depending on what texture you want your finished chimichurri to have, you can make it in the food processor or even the blender for a fairly smooth sauce. You can also hand-chop the garlic and parsley with a knife to give it a cruder consistency. Barrett, however, favors using a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic with the salt, and parsley before adding the oil and lemon. 

In Barrett's opinion, using a mortar and pestle makes the sauce smell nice and allows the flavors to blend better. She also explains that it's "very satisfying to pulverize ingredients at the end of a long work day" and considers the activity to be "free stress relief." No matter how you choose to make your chimichurri, though, she notes that you'll be able to prepare it a day ahead and then keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.