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Roast Chicken with Lemon-Basil Butter Sauce

Roast Chicken with Lemon-Basil Butter Sauce

Renée Robinson

An Easy, but Elegant Pan Sauce Gilds the Lily in This Recipe.

I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I love roasting a chicken. It’s a constant in my kitchen. It’s comforting and deeply satisfying. There are so many ways to go about it as far as techniques and seasonings. This time around I left it whole instead of spatchcocking it. Why? Because I wanted a pan sauce and seeing as I roast the intact chicken in a large skillet, it makes it easy to simply use that same skillet for the sauce.

I’ve found that even though I always brine my chickens in buttermilk and salt, I can still use the drippings for a sauce if I carefully remove most of the marinade before roasting it. I don’t know if you’ve every bought  Buitoni Pesto with Basil. It’s been around for many years and can be found in the refrigerated pasta section in the grocery store. I never use it for an actual pesto sauce, but I find it to be handy as a subtle seasoning and it’s easy to keep on hand in the freezer. 

I rubbed it underneath the skin on the breast and then slathered it all over the outside of the chicken before I roasted it. The coating will get dark as it roasts and you may need to cover the chicken with a piece of foil as it’s cooking. When the chicken is done, I put together a quick pan sauce of minced garlic,  dry white vermouth, ground coriander, butter, the remaining Buitoni pesto, a little bit of cream, and lemon zest. At this point the pan sauce tasted smooth and rich. While it was good, it needed brightening up.

When I added a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, plenty of chopped fresh basil, and lots of black pepper it really came alive and turned into something truly delicious. So, here you have it. Another roast chicken recipe to add to your repertoire. I don’t think there can possibly be too many.

Roast Chicken with Lemon-Basil Butter Sauce

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Buttermilk brined chicken is roasted with store bought pesto rubbed under the skin and on top of the chicken. Then I make an easy pan sauce from the remaining pesto, garlic, vermouth, ground coriander, butter, lemon zest and juice, a little cream and lots of chopped fresh basil. It's a beauty of a recipe.

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  • 6.5 pound chicken

  • 2 cups buttermilk

  • 4 teaspoons fine sea salt

  • Buitoni Pesto with Basil - 7 ounce container

  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced

  • 3/4 cup dry white vermouth

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground

  • 5 tablespoons cold salted butter, sliced into cubes

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped, reserving a couple teaspoons for garnishing

  • Black pepper, coarsely ground


  • Place the buttermilk and salt in a one gallon ziplock bag. Add the chicken and let sit overnight. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 425° with a rack in the center. Drain the brine from the chicken and dry with a paper towel. Rub 2 tablespoons of the pesto under the skin of each breast half. I have small hands, so I like to use the blunt end of a chopstick in order to separate the skin of the breast from the meat. Rub the rest over the skin of the chicken and some on the inside, reserving about 3 tablespoon for the sauce. Tie the legs of the chicken together, place in a 12 inch skillet, which you’ve lightly oiled, and put it in the oven with the legs pointed to the rear of your oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° and continue to cook until an instant read thermometer registers 145° - 150° when tested in the thickest part of the breast, approximately another 50 minutes for my size chicken. You don't want the breast temperature to go any higher than 150°. Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest on a cutting board (for at least 15 minutes) while you prepare the pan sauce.
  • Spoon off all but about a tablespoon of fat from the skillet and set it over medium high heat. Let the drippings reduce until they darken in color - about 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the vermouth and ground coriander and let reduce by half. Remove from the heat and start whisking in the butter cubes, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep adding the butter when the previous cubes have thoroughly melted and blended into the sauce. Return the pan to the burner over very low heat and stir in the reserved pesto, heavy cream, and lemon zest. When warm, stir in the lemon juice and at the very last minute stir in the chopped basil leaves. Immediately remove from the heat. Add plenty of black pepper and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle the reserved basil on the chicken, carve, and serve it with the sauce. Enjoy!

14 Responses

    1. Hi, Dori! This would be great served with crispy skillet potatoes, baked potato wedges, long grain rice, etc. I also served it with pan sautéed broccoli to which I added chopped red bell pepper. I hope you enjoy it!

  1. I made the sauce and served it over sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breasts that had been generously rubbed with the pesto. It was absolutely delicious! I’ll definitely make it again the same way since there are just the two of us. Oh, that sauce!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Hi, Pat! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Yeah, it really is all about that sauce, isn’t it?? Thanks so much for letting me know you liked it!

  2. I made this tonight for dinner with friends. It looked amazing and the flavour was so good. My chicken was 7lb so we had to bake for an extra 20 minutes. I will make this again and again.

    1. Wonderful, Lynne!!! I’m so happy you enjoyed it, too. Thank you so much for letting me know.

  3. Renee, for the inexperienced cook think about adding the temp at which they should pull the chicken. I swear I couldn’t see it in the recipe. Mine is in the oven as I reply to you and I know it’s going to be amazing because it’s your recipe!

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