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Guest Chef Recipe: Yaya's Chicken by John Fitch

A simple Greek-style roasted chicken that's equally delicious and easy.

Myles Snider
Myles Snider
4 min read
Guest Chef Recipe: Yaya's Chicken by John Fitch

Hey, everyone!

Today I'm excited to share the very first guest chef post for Mother Tongue Cooking Club, by my friend John Fitch. John is something of a modern-day renaissance man– tech entrepreneur, author, martial artist, and badass chef. He's currently building IRL.com and is best known for his book Time Off. John and I have cooked together many times, and I'm always impressed by his ability to take simple ingredients and elevate them in creative ways.

A few months ago he invited me over for dinner and served this chicken. I was blown away by the flavor, but I was even more intrigued when he explained to me just how simple it was to make. Anyone can master this recipe, and it's the perfect dinner party meal. Serve it with some simple sauces and a big salad, and you've got a delicious, stress-free feast.

Here's some background on the dish from John:

While I was writing the book Time Off, I spent a part of my sabbatical studying leisure and cooking in Greece.  I learned a lot about living from just observing many Greek grandmas (often nicknamed Yaya) cooking simple dishes that blew me away. I was moved by simple dishes like fried eggs and baked chicken, and these grinning elders created them with no stress. The Yayas embodied no-bullshit cooking at its finest. They are fearless and liberal with few ingredients, resulting in dishes that end up being a community staple. Just like the deep, loud laughs of the Greek people, they don't do anything half-ass. I love that and have since strived to bring Yaya energy every day in the kitchen.

I remember one Yaya made baked chicken that blew me away so much that I ate the whole darn' thing! When I asked the woman what the secret was, she simply said, "Use more oregano and fresh lemon than you think you need." So when I tried recreating the dish at home, I kept her wisdom top of mind. I used to be pretty timid with spices like dried oregano, but after tasting my own Yaya-inspired chicken recipe, I was convinced most of us actually under-season a lot of what we cook in the kitchen. I hope this dish leads to the same epiphany for you, and may we finally start clearing out our growing spice cabinets! Life is too short not to be bold and add a little extra when we can. Let's all live like Yaya!

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 heaping tbsp Greek oregano (2-3 g)
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns (~6g)
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (~10-15 g)
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
  • (optional) 4-5 potatoes, cut into large cubes

Process

Start by pre-heating your oven to 425.

Blend the whole peppercorns down into a powder. You can blend the oregano, as well, to get a finer mix. Or you can use it whole.

Mix together the salt, oregano, and black peppercorns.

Pat the chicken dry all over with paper towels on the outside and inside. This will allow the seasoning to adhere to the skin.

Season the chicken heavily all over with the spice blend. Make sure you season inside the cavity, as well! Press the mix into the chicken as you go to help it stick.

Place the chicken in a cast iron pan or a baking tray.

I put mine on top of some thick-cut potatoes to make it an easy 1-pan meal.

Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Halfway through, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the outside of the chicken.

Pull it from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes. It will be much easier to carve if you allow it to cool substantially.

Sometimes, I'll turn the oven off at 40 minutes or so and allow the chicken to cool inside the oven. This is especially helpful if you're cooking for a dinner party– I've served this chicken a good 30 minutes after turning off the oven with great results.

Alternatively, you can pull it from the oven, tent it with foil, and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Carve up the chicken, squeeze a bunch of lemon juice over the top of it, and serve.  

I like to pair this with a creamy, acidic sauce. I made a whipped feta with preserved lemon paste, but it would be equally good with a Greek-style tzatziki. This is beautiful accompanied by roasted potatoes and a nice crisp salad.

Enjoy!


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