Roast Chicken with Maroon Olive Butter Recipe

Elevate chicken dinner for date night or any night: If you’ve never had crisp roast chicken with the unexpected tang of buttery Kalamata olives, fresh parsley and lemon, you’re in for a treat.
Roast Chicken with Maroon Olive Butter and Mashed Cauliflower with Parsley and Butter

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Get excited about a simple roast chicken dinner. When you prepare it with a savory olive butter, it can elevate the everyday protein to a delicious date-night dinner for a Valentine or a comforting weekend dinner anytime.

In this recipe by chef and caterer Serena Bass, which she created for Real Food, you can also get a head start on dinner with make-ahead tips. Having spent many years as a caterer, Bass understands that ways to expedite a dinner or party are helpful. You should try to plan ahead, too, so the chicken is salted overnight, which makes a world of difference, says Bass. You can make the Maroon Olive Butter the day before, too, so you’ll be a step ahead. Serve the chicken alongside Mashed Cauliflower with Parsley and Butter for an unexpected twist, and finish off with light, silky, and mysteriously scented Delicate Flan for dessert.

A date-night dinner at home can be a fun way to create a special evening. Light some candles, uncork a bottle of Sangiovese from Tuscany—where grapes for the wine and black olives for the entrée both grow—and celebrate each other.

Roast Chicken Pieces with Maroon Olive Butter

Makes 2 to 4 servings

If you’ve never had crisp roast chicken with the unexpected tang of buttery Kalamata olives, fresh parsley and lemon, then you’re in for a treat. Try to plan so the chicken is salted overnight—it makes a world of difference. Any leftovers are delicious cold for lunch in sandwiches or reheated for another dinner—you can’t go wrong.

1 chicken (preferably organic) cut into 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 bone-in breasts, each breast cut in half, keeping wings attached.
1 teaspoon salt
Maroon Olive Butter (recipe below)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, for serving
5 Kalamata olives (room temperature), for serving
1 bunch fresh oregano, for serving

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Spray a cooling rack with cooking spray (to make washing up easier) and set the rack on a sheet pan.
  2. Pat dry the chicken pieces. Trim any excess fat off and sprinkle with the salt. If you have time, leave overnight in the refrigerator, or just set aside for 1 hour (see Cook’s Notes).
  3. Ideally, remove from the fridge, pat off any surface moisture, and leave to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Take 1 tablespoon of Maroon Olive Butter per piece of chicken, and rub it all over the chicken then arrange the pieces on the prepared rack on top of the sheet pan.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes, removing the breasts at 20 minutes. They can just sit and relax. Remove the legs and thighs from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Spoon a little extra butter on all the chicken and serve with lemon wedges, scattered olives and oregano stems.

Cook’s Notes
• The purpose of the salt is to draw out the water from the skin so it will brown and crisp up well.
• When cutting a wedge of lemon, I always trim the ends off so there is a little flat part for your fingers to hold. It just makes squeezing a wedge easier.

Maroon Olive Butter

Makes 1½ cups (8 to 10 servings)

No olive has proven better in this recipe than Kalamatas; they are juicy, easy to pit and mash, and create the prettiest speckled butter. Room temperature butter means totally soft and easy to whisk. Any leftover butter is very good tossed with steamed cauliflower as a side dish, or forked through angel hair pasta as a quick supper with a big green salad and crusty bread.

4 ounces (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, at warm room temperature
6 ounces Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped to make ½ cup
4 teaspoons minced Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon sea salt or Maldon salt
3 strips lemon zest, minced

  1. In a small deep bowl, using a metal balloon whisk, beat the butter for about 1 minute until light and creamy.
  2. Add the olives, parsley, salt and lemon zest and beat together well. Set aside unrefrigerated.

Mashed Cauliflower with Parsley and Butter

Makes 2 cups, 2 to 4 servings

Unless you concentrate, you might think this is just mashed potato but then all the interesting flavors come through and you know it is something special.

8 cups cauliflower, cut in bite sized pieces, no stalk (see Cook’s Notes)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1½ ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely minced parsley, divided

  1. Put the cauliflower in a saucepan and add about 6 cups hot tap water until it is just below the cauliflower.
  2. Add the 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil, then turn down to a good simmer and cook until a sharp knife enters easily, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Strain the cauliflower into a sieve and give a good shake then tip the florets out evenly onto a dry dish towel to air dry for 5 minutes. This rest makes for a creamy mash rather than a watery one.
  4. Gather up the corners of the towel and transfer the florets to a food processer (not a blender). Add the butter and black pepper, and process until you have a light smooth mash.
  5. Return the mash to the saucepan you cooked the cauliflower in and set over a low heat, stirring occasionally until it is hot and you are ready to serve it.
  6. Add 1½ tablespoons of parsley and salt to taste (I used ½ teaspoon).
  7. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve from that. Use the reserved parsley to scatter over the top as garnish and some on the chicken, if desired.

Cook’s Notes
• Buy 2 heads of cauliflower and cut off florets until you have 8 cups. The remainder can be kept wrapped airtight in a chill drawer for other uses.
• Don’t cover the cauliflower (or any vegetable) with extra water as the flavor will wash away.
• If you are using Morton’s kosher salt, decrease the amount to 1½ tablespoons, as I think it tastes saltier than some other brands.
• Hopefully you have a pepper grinder since pre-ground pepper is a poor substitute. I know from testing that my pepper grinder takes 20 twists to make 1 teaspoon of ground pepper and therefore 10 twists for ½ teaspoon, etc. It’s a useful trick!
• Any leftovers are delicious for breakfast or brunch reheated and topped with an egg.

Delicate Flan

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Delicate Flan

Makes 6 servings

If I were texting you about this amazing dessert, I would start with OMG. Light, silky, mysteriously scented, I just can’t tell you how excited I was when this innocent little custard was cooked, and I slipped a spoonful in my mouth. It is so delicate you aren’t going to turn it out; just serve it from the cup in which it is cooked. —Serena Bass

2 cups 2% milk
½ cup sugar
4 strips lemon zest
6 extra large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure anise extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (from a cinnamon stick ground in a spice grinder)

  1. Position rack in the bottom third of oven and heat to 300°F. Gather 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and set aside.
  2. Put the milk, sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan over moderate heat and warm until there are small bubbles around the edge of the milk. Remove from the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to infuse the lemon zest.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, extracts and cinnamon. Strain the warm milk then add to the yolks whisking as you pour. Using a ½ cup measure, pour the custard into the ramekins.
  4. Set ramekins in a container (I use a 9 x 13-inch pan) and add hot water to ½-inch deep. Cover the pan with foil just crimped lightly around the edges.
  5. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the custard is still a little shivery in the middle.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight. The custards will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.

Serving option: Peel a very ripe room temperature Anjou pear, core dice and spoon on top of the custard.

Nutrition info (per serving)
Roast Chicken Pieces with Maroon Olive Butter: Calories: 640, Fat: 46g (Sat: 14g), Cholesterol: 230 mg, Sodium: 1350 mg, Carb 3g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 0g, Protein: 51g
Mashed Cauliflower with Parsley and Butter: Calories: 170, Fat: 12g (Sat: 8g), Cholesterol: 30 mg, Sodium: 590mg, Carb: 14g, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 5g
Delicate Flan: Calories: 160, Fat: 6g (Sat: 2.5g), Cholesterol: 190 mg, Sodium: 45 mg, Carb: 20g, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 20g, Protein: 5g


Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.