Discovering the magic of Zuni Café’s hallmark dish, the zuni roast chicken with bread salad recipe, feels like stepping into a culinary story that transcends the ordinary.
This dish isn’t just a meal; it’s an emblem of the dining room experience at the iconic San Francisco establishment.
The wood-burning, brick oven roasts the chicken to a succulent perfection, creating a dish that’s more than just food—it’s a piece of history.
My journey with this dish started as an exchange student in France, where I first tasted a similar roast chicken.
Later, learning that the chef behind Zuni’s iconic dish, Judy Rodgers, drew inspiration from Jean Troisgros and his family’s meals, felt like reconnecting with an old friend.
Zuni’s chicken salad, much like those rotisserie chickens I saw in French markets, is more than just a meal; it’s a collection of memories and traditions.
This dish, ubiquitous in many homes, including mine, started as a challenge to elevate something as everyday as roast chicken.
The result? A dish that commands respect not just in the restaurant but in kitchens everywhere.
The Technique And Recipe
The key to the dish’s unforgettable taste lies in its simplicity and the mastery of technique, particularly dry-brining or pre-salting.
This method, now synonymous with Judy-style cooking, is a game-changer. It’s not just for chickens but turkeys too, a technique widely discussed across the internet.
My own chickens at home, though smaller than the three to four-pounders recommended in the recipe, still turn out succulent with salty, crispy skin.
And the bread salad—a delightful mix of soft and crunchy croutons, dried cranberries or currants, and a blend of chicories, like radicchio and arugula—complements the chicken perfectly, creating a balance of flavors and textures.
During my time in southwest France, working as a young cook in l’Estanquet, a small eatery in Les Landes, I learned the importance of marinade—how it enhances the cells and surface of meats like sea bass, making them juicy and tender.
This understanding deepened my appreciation for the aromatics and flavors in Zuni chicken recipe.
The reliability and ease of the zuni cafe roast chicken recipe make it a staple for a casual Sunday night dinner, yet it’s impressive enough for guests.
Over the decades, I’ve noticed the tastes and sizes of chickens have varied, as have the availability and quality of greens for the salad.
The challenge lies in sourcing a small, high-quality bird and the best greens. The skin, fat, and meat ratio in smaller birds often yields the best results, especially when honoring the integrity of the original recipe.
Each time I prepare it, it’s not just a meal; it’s a memorable experience, akin to paying homage to a culinary tradition.
The Charm Of Zuni Café’s Roast Chicken
Zuni Café, nestled in the heart of San Francisco, isn’t just a restaurant; it’s the LBD (Little Black Dress) of the food world.
Perfect for a romantic date night, a polished work dinner, or just a relaxed evening at your favorite neighborhood joint, this iconic California eatery has been delighting diners for over 40 years.
The recipe for their roast chicken with warm bread salad embodies an amazing taste, much like stepping into a cute Café and knowing you’re in for something special.
Zuni Roast Chicken With Bread Salad Recipe
Zuni Roast Chicken With Bread Salad Ingredients
- 1 whole free-range chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
- 4 sprigs of thyme (each about 4 inches long)
- 4 small garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
- 3 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of warm water (90°F to 110°F)
- 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of dried currants
- 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
- 2 tablespoons of Champagne vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 pound of day-old, chewy rustic bread loaf (not sourdough), cut into large 2-inch chunks (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 4 medium scallions (approximately 2 ounces), trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (about 3/4 cup)
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
- 4 cups of lightly packed greens (such as chicory, escarole, or radicchio) (about 4 ounces)
Zuni Roast Chicken With Bread Salad Directions
Making The Roast Chicken
- Start by gently loosening the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs using your fingers.
- Stuff the thyme sprigs and chopped garlic under the loosened skin, spreading them evenly to infuse flavor.
- Sprinkle the fine sea salt and black pepper evenly over the chicken, ensuring it’s well-seasoned.
- Place the prepared chicken on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours. This allows the flavors to meld and the skin to dry out, resulting in a crispy and flavorful roast.
Make The Bread Salad
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon warm water and red wine vinegar. Add currants and soak until they plump up, which takes about 10 minutes. Drain the currants and set them aside.
- Whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil and Champagne vinegar in another small bowl. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
- On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until well combined. Bake in the preheated oven until the bread is lightly toasted, which should take 8 to 12 minutes. Flip the bread once halfway through baking. Let it cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, then tear the bread into smaller, bite-size pieces (about 1- to 1 1/2-inch). Toss the bread with three-quarters of the dressing (about 1/2 cup) in a large bowl and let it stand until the bread absorbs the liquid, which takes about 15 minutes.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and garlic, cooking and stirring until they soften, approximately 2 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts. Transfer this mixture to the bowl with the bread. Add the currants and toss until everything is well combined.
- Spoon the bread salad into a shallow 8-inch square baking dish. Loosely cover it with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven until it’s heated through, about 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until the tops of the bread cubes are dry and the bottoms are lightly browned, which should take 6 to 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and set it aside.
- Increase the oven temperature to 500°F. Wipe the skillet clean and transfer it to the oven to preheat for 8 minutes. Remove the heated skillet from the oven and add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, swirling it to coat the skillet. Pat the chicken dry and carefully place it in the skillet, breast side up. Roast at 500°F until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced using a knife and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the breast and thigh registers at least 160°F to 165°F. This should take approximately 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- Tilt the chicken and cutting board over the skillet, draining the juices into the drippings. Skim the fat from the juices in the skillet and bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet to soften any hard golden drippings using a wooden spoon, which should take about 1 minute. Return the bread salad to the large bowl; drizzle it with a spoonful of pan juices and toss. Add the greens and the remaining 3 tablespoons of dressing, folding until everything is well combined.
- Cut the chicken into pieces. Arrange the bread salad mixture and chicken on a platter and serve immediately.
4 Tips To Make Zuni Café Chicken Recipe
1. Use A Smaller Chicken
Opt for a smaller chicken, around two to three pounds. This size ensures a good ratio of skin to meat, crucial for flavor.
While a larger chicken can be used, serving a smaller bird, like a Cornish Game Hen, aligns better with the original ingredient list.
2. Mix Up The Salad Greens
Don’t shy away from using spicy or slightly bitter greens like mustard greens or tatsoi.
Mixing these with chicories adds a delightful complexity to the salad, elevating the overall flavor profile.
3. Use Raisins Instead Of Currants
If currants aren’t your choice or aren’t available, raisins make a great substitute.
They add the perfect amount of vinegar-y fruitiness to the dish, complementing the chicken’s rich flavor.
4. Use Gluten-Free Bread
For those following a gluten-free diet, substituting with a high-quality gluten-free bread won’t compromise the dish’s integrity.
This adaptation ensures everyone can enjoy this recipe, regardless of dietary restrictions.
FAQs About Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken Recipe
1. When Roasting A Chicken Should It Be Covered?
When preparing roast chicken, it’s best to leave it uncovered. This allows the skin to achieve a perfect brown and roasted color. Towards the end of cooking, you can tent the chicken with foil to seal in the juices.
2. Do You Need Foil To Roast Chicken?
To perfectly roast a chicken, first weigh the bird and calculate the cooking time using a guide. Place the chicken in a roasting tin that is slightly larger than the chicken itself. Avoid covering it with foil if you desire crisp skin. Basting the meat as it cooks ensures it stays moist.
3. What Kind Of Pan Is Best For Roasting Chicken?
A roasting pan with a rack is ideal for roasting chicken. Pans with upright handles make it easier to maneuver in the oven. However, a rimmed sheet pan or an oven-proof skillet, like cast-iron, works just as well.
4. What Temperature Do You Roast Chicken At?
Start roasting the chicken at 400 to 425 degrees F. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. The chicken is done when its internal temp reaches 165 – 175 degrees F, as measured by an instant-read thermometer.
5. Can You Roast Chicken In An Aluminum Pan?
Yes, roasting a chicken in an aluminum pan or sheet tray is possible. To avoid sticking and taste changes with acidic ingredients, use parchment paper as a lining. Avoid exposing the aluminum to high temperatures to prevent warping or damage.
6. What Are Three Types Of Chicken Suitable For Roasting?
Broilers, fryers, and roasters are all suitable types of chicken for roasting. These meat types are versatile and can be used for various preparation methods, from poaching to roasting.
7. How Does Roasted Chicken Taste Like?
Roasted chicken is known for its juiciness and savory flavor. Unlike breasts or legs, it doesn’t require additional sauce or breading. Just a bit of salt and pepper can turn it into a plate-clearing centerpiece of a meal.
8. How Can You Tell If Roast Chicken Is Undercooked?
An undercooked chicken will feel dense and may snap when you bite into it. In contrast, cooked chicken appears more fibrous or stringy.
9. What’s The Difference Between Roast Chicken And Roasted Chicken?
The term “roast chicken” refers to the dish made by roasting a chicken. In contrast, “roasted chicken” describes the meat that has been cooked by the process of roasting.
10. What Temperature Is A Roast Chicken Done In Celsius?
A roast chicken is fully cooked when all parts, including the internal and external areas, reach a steady temperature of 75°C. This temperature should be reached throughout, including in the stuffing, wings, and legs. Use a thermometer to test.
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