Roast chicken at home from the chef of Forest Grill

Judith Harris Solomon
Special to The Detroit News

Nick Janutol, executive chef of the Forest Grill restaurant in Birmingham, became interested in cooking while he was still a student at Grosse Pointe North High School.

"I just made simple things like cheeseburgers, roasted chicken or tomato soup, but as I slowly progressed, it made me think it would be cool to be a chef," Janutol, 29, said. "I love that instant gratification you get from cooking, as well the creative aspect and the craftsmanship."

So the summer after his freshman year at Wayne State University (where he studied accounting "but got bored"), Janutol decided to move to Montclair, New Jersey, to work at his uncle's Italian restaurant.

"He paid me to do whatever was needed," the chef said. "And I was lucky enough to get got some really good advice from the people who worked there that has really helped me in my career. They said the life of a cook is really hard, but if you're still willing to do that, you'll be fine. A lot of young people go to culinary school thinking it will be an awesome life, but they're not ready to do the work that is needed."

After his sophomore year at Wayne State, Janutol moved to Hyde Park, New York, to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Shortly after earning an associates degree from the Institute, he moved to Manhattan to work at Danny Meyer's renowned Michelin three-star restaurant, Eleven Madison Park.

"I was there for two years and, while it was intense, it was also a great experience," he said.

In 2013, after stints at Ria and Balsan (both in Chicago's Waldorf Astoria Hotel) and also at a restaurant called L20, Janutol and his wife, Allicia (they met when they were both students at the CIA), decided it was time to move back to Detroit where the chef says he "was lucky enough to meet Brian Polcyn, owner of the Forest Grill, and become its executive chef.

"The advantage of working at so many different restaurants is that I have been able to build a large foundation that I can create from," Janutol says.

"When cooking at home, my go-to dish is roasted chicken. I'm really big into fresh flavors and these recipes really hits that because of the combination of the ginger and the lemon, while the white wine and lemon gives it acidity. I also like that while you're cleaning up and drinking a glass of whiskey, you can be making the broth and it will be ready by the time we go to bed. Then I can add the other ingredients the next day and it will keep a couple of days in the fridge or it can be frozen."

Judith Harris Solomon is a metro Detroit freelance writer. Contact her at

Roasted Chicken

1 medium chicken

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 pound butter, softened

1 lemon

2 sprigs thyme

2 garlic cloves

Preset oven to 350 degrees. Season the whole chicken with salt and pepper and rub the soft butter over the whole bird. Fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, thyme and garlic cloves. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing in the oven. Every 10 minutes, open the oven and baste the chicken with the melting butter. After 30 minutes, begin checking the temperature of the breast. Once the breast hits 150 degrees, pull the chicken from the oven and let it stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, then carve. Serves 4.

Per serving: 673 calories; 61 g fat (33 g saturated fat; 82 percent calories from fat); 0 g carbohydrates; 0 g sugar; 246 mg cholesterol; 655 mg sodium; 31 g protein; 0 g fiber.

Chicken Soup

1 chicken carcass (left from the roasted chicken)

3 liters of water

1 cup white wine

1 carrot, peeled

1 Spanish onion, peeled

1 stalk lemongrass, pounded with the back of a knife

2 tablespoons crushed fresh ginger

1 pound Italian wedding pasta

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Shred chicken (from 2 leftover chicken legs from the roasted chicken)

Combine the carcass, water and white wine in a sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Once the stock has come to a simmer, turn the heat down so that the stock is percolating. Continue to cook the stock for four hours. Strain the carcass out, add the carrot, onion, lemongrass and ginger and cook for an additional 30 minutes at a soft percolation. Then bring the soup to a boil, add the pasta and cook until tender (approximately 4 minutes). Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Then add the shredded chicken and heat through. Serves 6.

Per serving: 367 calories; 14 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 10 percent calories from fat); 62 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 22 mg cholesterol; 35 mg sodium; 17 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Spring Bean Salad

1 pound haricots verts (French green beans)

8 ounces yellow snap peas

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

4 ounces almonds

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lime

Trim the ends of the beans and rinse to clean. Bring a pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, season it with a lot of salt so that the water tastes like the ocean. Place the beans in the pot and cook until tender, approximately 2 minutes. Once cooked, strain the beans into a colander and reserve. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and almonds. Once the almonds are toasted, pull the pan off the heat and add the strained snap peas and beans and sauté. Season with salt, pepper, lime juice and lime zest. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Per serving: 307 calories; 28 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 82 percent calories from fat); 13 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 107 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 5 g fiber.