At the stunning Harbor House Inn situated on a bluff over the ocean on the Mendocino Coast, Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer takes pride in foraging all that he can from the sea to star in his minimalist dishes full of finesse.
That includes making his own salt from seawater and incorporating seaweed in the house butter.
But you don’t have to go to that extreme to enjoy his “Kombu Roast Chicken with Kabocha Squash and Daikon” in your own home.
Instead, this dish by the chef who received his first Michelin star last year just takes stopping at a Japanese market to pick up some kombu. The dried kelp, so full of umami, is pulverized and mixed with softened butter, garlic and lemon zest, then smeared gently underneath the skin of a whole chicken before roasting.
Wedges of kabocha squash and slices of daikon get roasted at the same time in the same pan. As the chicken cooks, the flavored butter melts all over the chicken, basting it with luscious fat to keep it extremely moist and juicy.
The chicken does not end up tasting like seaweed. Instead, the kombu just ups the savoriness level. And the garlic and lemon add even more levels of punchiness.
The kabocha has flesh that’s dry like a russet potato, making it ideal to soak up that butter beautifully, too, turning it sweet, caramelized and rich. In contrast, the daikon softens, providing a mellow radish-note.
It’s like Sunday roast chicken turning Japanese. And it’s sure to be a classic.
Kombu Roast Chicken with Kabocha Squash and Daikon
(Serves 4)1 (2-pound) kabocha or acorn squash, cut into 8 wedges, each wedge halved crosswise
1 (1-pound) daikon, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 ounce dried kombu, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated garlic
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss together squash, daikon, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange squash mixture in a roasting pan in a single layer.
Process kombu in a spice grinder until finely ground, about 25 seconds. Stir together 1 teaspoon ground kombu (reserve any remaining for another use), butter, garlic, lemon zest, and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt until thoroughly blended. Carefully run your fingers underneath skin of chicken breasts and thighs to loosen. Spread butter mixture under skin. Season outside of chicken with remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Place chicken on top of squash mixture.
Roast in preheated oven until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of breast registers 155 degrees, about 1 hour, gently stirring squash mixture halfway through. Remove pan from oven; let chicken rest at least 15 minutes. Carve chicken, and serve with roasted vegetables.
Make-Ahead: Kombu butter can be made and refrigerated up to 1 week ahead.
Suggested Wine Pairing: Earthy, exotic Loire natural white.
From Executive Chef Matthew Kammerer of the Harbor House Inn, as published in Food & Wine, January 2020