Zuni Chicken

There are a few chicken dishes that I have made a few times over the years. Chicken in the Pot and Marbella Chicken, countless times. Zuni only a few, but I am shifting into the countless because it is that good.

I have the Zuni cookbook that came out in 2002. Many cookbooks written at that time are if someone is talking you through the recipe. I had to read it a few times, so I did not fuck up. I will attempt to make this a bit tighter for next time and for anyone else who wants to follow along.

I made this for six, so I made an extra chicken for leftovers. The key to this meal is drying the chicken thoroughly then seasoning the chicken with kosher salt (in and out), sliding your finger under the skin to separate it skin from the meat and then put a sprig of thyme, sage, rosemary and marjoram under the breast skin. You can use whichever herbs you prefer. Put this on a tray with a lip and let those chickens dry out in the fridge for at least 2 days and up to 3.

Needs for the salad:

  • 2 large loaves of a peasant style chewy bread, a day old is preferable. Cut off all the crust and pull the bread into chunky crouton-style sizes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tbsp. champagne vinegar (I used Prosecco white wine vinegar) mixed together
  • 2 tbsp. dried currants that you will soak in 2 tbsp. warm water and 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 8 scallions thinly sliced including a bit of the green section
  • 2 handfuls of arugula (I used baby arugula)

The salad should be made before roasting the chicken because it can sit for several hours. Put all the pulled bread chunks on a pan, dribble olive oil over all of them, broil until just getting crispy. Flip them so that each side gets a little crisp. Move this into a large bowl and and dribble 1/4 of the olive oil, champagne vinegarette over the hot croutons. Some will be more dressed than others but that is fine. Toss in a little salt for taste. Soak the currants with the warm water and red wine vinegar, and set aside. I cut up the scallions at this point too and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 475. Take the chicken out of the fridge and pat down again until really dry. Use a deep roasting pan, and warm it on the stove so when the chicken goes into the pan it is already a bit warm. Put the chicken in a deep roasting pan with the breast side up. The chicken should begin to sizzle and brown after about 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, crank up the heat to 500. If it gets too smoky, turn the heat down a bit.

After 30 minutes, flip the chicken. The skin might stick to the pan or not but it is what it is. At this point I put the pinenuts in a small glass bowl in the oven with the chicken to warm the pinenuts. Add the pinenuts to the toasted bread. Put the scallions in a small skillet with a bit of olive oil and saute until soft. Add this to the bread salad. Drain the currants and add to the bread salad too. Toss the bread salad, throw in a bit more of the vingarette and put in a smaller roasting pan and tent with tin foil and set aside.

When you flip the chicken, put the bread salad that is now in the roasting pan to warm up the salad. Take out the chicken when it is done, set aside for 5 minutes before cutting. Take out the bread salad, put in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of the pan juices, a bit more of the vinegarette (all varied for your taste) and toss in the arugula, completely mix the salad.

Put the chicken on a platter, toss the bread salad on top and serve. Crazy amount of steps but worth every one.