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. 

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