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Three Chile & Butter Roast Chicken

Three Chile & Butter Roast Chicken

I am a bit of a show-off. I love having people over for dinner and putting out something really magnificent-looking and impressive out on the table. And I especially love when something looks like it took a lot of effort but truly did not; I’m enthusiastically filing a perfectly roasted whole chicken under that category. Start to finish, a whole chicken rarely takes more than an hour and a half and most of that time, you’re not doing anything - it’s just sitting in the oven and cooking away. I made my first roast chicken back in 2011 and it has become my go-to for a lot of dinner parties or anytime I have a busy week ahead and I need to pack a few dinners away.

This particular recipe relies on one of my new favorite ingredients - dried Mexican chiles. I ended up with bags of three different types of chiles (guajillo, ancho, and pasilla) after a few mole-making parties and was trying to think of other ways to put them to use. I figured re-hydrating them and turning into a flavorful paste was a good place to start. Those bold flavors, paired with some butter tucked under the chicken skin, made for a moist and rich roast chicken. The good news about those three chiles is that they are all mild so while the spice paste is a deep, somewhat intimidating red, it’s not spicy or overpowering. All you get is deep, earthy, chile flavor. All Mexican chiles are not created equal and some can be very spicy - a general rule of thumb is the smaller and lighter the chile, the hotter it will be. You don’t have to use three chiles or the combination I’ve used - you can get creative and end up with a great result!

There are a few I follow for perfect roast chicken every time; chile butter or other flavorings, these rules deliver a showstopper every time.

  • Use a spatchcocked or butterflied whole chicken - this increases the surface area that comes in contact with the heat, delivering more crispy skin. Your butcher can do this for you or you can use a good pair of kitchen scissors to cut out the backbone and flatten out the chicken. And bonus, you can save the backbone to make stock or a flavorful soup!

  • Season the chicken liberally - a whole chicken needs more salt than you think it does. Season both sides of the chicken well with salt and pepper.

  • Roast on a sheet pan or a pan without too high a lip - this, again, increases the surface area exposed to heat.

  • Tuck some butter under the breast - as the breast is most likely to get dry, tucking some butter in will keep it moist. Plus, butter is delicious.

  • Tuck your seasoning under the skin - be it a chile rub or herbs, get some of that good stuff under the skin! Under the breast, in the leg quarters, and underneath the chicken itself.

  • Place some vegetables under the chicken - this perfumes the chicken from underneath and also creates a little height so that the chicken isn’t steaming in the juices it’s going to release. Onions work great. Lemons or fennel are also fantastic.

  • Rest the chicken - you’ve heard this a million times and it is true. Take it out of the oven, cover it in foil, and leave it alone for 15 minutes before you carve! This will help the juices settle and keep the chicken moist.

  • Carve it like Jamie Oliver does and save those juices to top your carved chicken with.

Serves 4-6


  • 1 whole chicken, spatchcocked

  • 3 dried chiles

  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 pads of butter (cut one slice from a stick and then cut that in half)

  • 1 large onion, roughly sliced

  • 6-8 garlic cloves, crushed

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • cilantro leaves to garnish

  • 1 lime


Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the dried chiles and set aside for 30 mins. Once moistened, remove the chiles from the water and discard the stem and seeds (careful, they will be hot). Process the chiles and 2 tbsp olive oil in a food processor or hand blender to a smooth paste. If needed, add more oil or a little water. Season with some salt and set aside.

Slice the onions and crush the garlic cloves. Lay them out on your baking tray or roasting pan. Tip: cover the pan with aluminium foil for easy clean up.

Prepare the chicken. Take the spatchcocked chicken and season well with salt and pepper on both side. Place on top of the onions and garlic cloves on the baking tray. Rub the chile paste all over the chicken and under the skin. Tuck the two pads of butter under the skin covering the breast.

Place in the 425 F oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let the chicken rest for 15 mins. Move to a cutting board and carve the chicken.

Garnish with lime and cilantro. Serve with the roasted onions and garlic as a topping (these onions will be so good, oh my God)!

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