Variations on a Classic

The Root’s James Rigato offers an alternative to backyard grilled chicken


Photograph by Joe Vaughn

James Rigato, executive chef at The Root Restaurant and Bar and the soon-to-open Mabel Gray in Hazel Park, chose this classic preparation of grilled chicken — with a twist. “I’d like to offer an alternative to the Italian dressing marinated chicken, which I had my share of growing up, as did the rest of the free world,” he says. This version utilizes available fresh herbs. It also plays well with others. “It can fit in at any dinner party or backyard barbecue and loves beer and many styles of wine,” he says. He adds that the whey brine isn’t crucial but offers some tenderizing and tartness to the chicken. “If you buy a really high-quality fresh chicken from the farmers market or a trusty hippie, you can skip the brine all together,” he adds. — Molly Abraham


Brick Chicken with Italian Salsa Verde (serves 2-4)


1 Brined Whole Chicken (directions below)
Herb Dressing (recipe below)
Italian Salsa Verde (recipe below)


Brined Whole Chicken

1 fresh whole chicken, butchered in halves with breast boneless and free from the rib cage, wings cut off and skin intact. Brine in salted whey for 4-12 hours (or traditional brine, ratio of 1 cup salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 gallon water with aromatics: Rigato prefers citrus, chilies, and garlic).


Herb Dressing

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
2 cloves micro-planed garlic
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper



Remove chicken from the brine, drain, and air dry for 1 hour. Mix the dressing ingredients. Gently brush or toss the chicken in the dressing. Wrap a traditional brick in aluminum foil. Place chicken on a medium high-heat spot on a grill. (Rigato prefers a charcoal grill.) Place brick on top of the chicken and allow deep char marks to crisp the skin. Rotate the chicken to give it nice grill marks. Continue to press the chicken with the brick. Flip the chicken once the grill marks are deep and delicious-looking. Continue to cook being careful to not overcook the exposed flesh. If the chicken is beginning to char too much, move to a cooler part of the grill or remove and finish in a 350° F oven. Chicken is done when the thickest part of the meat is at 165° F. Top generously with salsa verde. Serve with roasted potatoes, pasta, potato salad, rice, or any other chicken-friendly companion.


Italian Salsa Verde

1 small red onion, minced, rinsed in hot water
10 anchovies
8 slices preserved lemon  (see Le Pigeon cookbook for recipe)
8 cloves garlic
1 teaspoons chili flakes
2 lemons, zested and juiced
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups fresh parsley leaves, packed
½ cup fresh oregano leaves, packed
1 teaspoons fresh thyme
1¾ cups olive oil
Salt, pepper, and Tabasco



Place everything except the oil and seasonings in a processor and begin to puree. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it makes a smooth pesto-like sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Chill. 

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

A Prime + Proper Progress Report

The Detroit steakhouse is on its way to becoming one of downtown’s destination dining spots

Birdie’s Something Chocolate Makes a Ganache With Panache

The local business is making sweet success out of a family recipe

Recipe: Fish Tacos with Cabbage and Jalapeño Slaw

Entertaining made easy with this favorite from London Chop House’s R.J. Scherer

Cocktail Recipe: Woodford Mint Julep

The Guilt-free Truth about Truffles

From ingredients to packaging, this sweet treat offers a healthy twist on snacking
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. 7 Michigan Breweries Worth a Trip
    Check out these must-visit locations during your summer travels
  2. To Market, to Market
    Michigan Wine & Cider Festival at Eastern Market May 24
  3. Your Guide to Michigan’s Odd and Unusual Festivals
    We rounded up some of the state’s most niche events, celebrating everything from fishflies to...
  4. Hour Media’s Real Estate All-Star Party 2017
    Hour Media's Real Estate All-Stars celebrated at the fourth annual Real Estate All-Star Party...
  5. Dry Times: Looking Back 100 Years After Prohibition
    A century ago, Detroit became the first city in the nation to prohibit alcohol
  6. Meet the Southwest Detroit Pizzeria Serving Sospeso
    PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is challenging what it means to be a new business on the block
  7. An Hour With... Candice S. Miller
    Macomb County Public Works Commissioner
  8. The Gentleman’s Guide to Style
    From grooming to shopping, a comprehensive directory for stylish men in metro Detroit
  9. Motherhood in Metro Detroit
    From pre-pregnancy thoughts to developing unconditional love, several local women give a glimpse...
  10. The Michigan Opera Theatre Pays Homage to a Negro League Baseball Legend
    The program honors Josh Gibson while exploring themes about discrimination and race