Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Restaurant (Re)creation: Zuni's Roasted Chicken + Bread Salad

Zuni Cafe is a San Francisco institution and their roasted chicken is hands-down the most popular item on the menu.  The dish serves two and takes about an hour to an hour an a half to arrive, but it is fabulous and definitely worth the wait.  This recipe is based on an adapted version of the original from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.  The original recipe is wonderful, but very wordy and time-consuming.  This adaptation should save some time, and if done right, should be equally mouthwatering and enjoyable. You can serve the chicken with the bread salad recipe below or you can swap it out and serve it with the brussels sprout and butternut squash panzanella salad from my prior post.  Either will be delicious.  Let me know how it turns out ; )

Serves 2-4

Ingredients for chicken:

  • 1 small chicken (2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 tender sprigs of Thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • A little water

Ingredients for bread salad:

  • 8 ounces torn peasant-style bread (crusts removed)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried currents, soaked in 1 tbsp each of red wine vinegar & warm water
  • 2 tablepsoons pine nuts
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  • 2 handfuls of arugula


Day 1

-Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken.  Wash the chicken and dry thoroughly.

-Gently slide a finger under the skin of each breast and create two small pockets.  Do the same under the skin of each thigh.  Stick a sprig of thyme in each of the 4 pockets.

-Season both sides of the chicken thoroughly with salt and pepper.

-Cover the chicken and put it in the refrigerator overnight (seasoning the chicken a day before makes it more flavorful and moist- its worth it).

Day 2

-Preheat oven to 475 F.  Place a 10 to 12-inch skillet with an all-metal handle over medium heat on the stove.  Wipe the chicken dry and place in the skillet, breast side up (the pan should sizzle).

-Next, place the the skillet in the oven and let it brown for about 30 minutes.  The skin should begin to blister.

-Meanwhile, toss torn bread pieces (about 2-inch chunks) in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lightly coating them.  Place them in a baking dish in the oven on a rack below the chicken and cook for about 10 minutes, or until brown, then remove from heat. (If you want to toast your pine nuts, you can place the pine nuts in the with the torn bread chunks, but watch them closely because they burn quickly.) 

-Turn the bird over and roast for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.  Then flip back over so the breast side is up and recrisp for another 5-10 minutes.

-Remove the chicken from the oven once it is crisp and browned.

-Turn off the oven and set the chicken on a plate to cool.  Pour the fat from the skillet, leaving the lean drippings behind.  Add about a tablespoon of water to the drippings and warm them over medium heat to soften any hard drippings.

-Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil with white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss half of this vinaigrette with the torn bread in a medium sized bowl.

-Meanwhile, heat some olive oil over medium-low heat in a small skillet and add the garlic and scallion slivers.  Stir constantly until softened, but not browned.  Remove from heat and toss with the bread.  You can add the drained currants and the pine nuts to the bread salad at this time as well.

-Place the bread salad in an oven-safe dish and warm in the oven while you finish preparing the chicken.

-While the bread salad is warming, tear the chicken into pieces, some large and some small.  Make sure to include the crispy pieces of skin (its the best part).

-Remove the bread salad from the oven and place on a platter over a handful or two of arugula.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette and a spoonful or two of pan drippings over the salad, mixing well.  Top the bread salad with crispy pieces of chicken.


Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 552-2522

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