Thursday, April 19, 2012

judy rodgers' roast chicken and bread salad

Have you ever been to Zuni

Zuni has been around for 33 years and it's a San Francisco institution. I first went there years ago, maybe the first time I ever came to San Francisco. I was 10 or 11 and I don't know what I ate for dinner, but what I do know is that there was roast chicken on the menu. 

Roast chicken is a staple of Zuni's menu. It's a dish for two and it's served with bread salad. I've had it a few times over my many visits to Zuni over the years and it's one of those things I've always wanted to replicate at home. A week or so ago, I was browsing in the cookbook section of the library and I came across The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Inside, the recipe for Judy Rodgers' roast chicken and bread salad. My time had come. 

The recipe is a little involved. Yet, as Ms. Rodgers says in the introduction to the book, "most often these dishes take their time, not the cooks time." Which is certainly true in this case. My chicken was slightly on the big side for this recipe (3 3/4 lbs) so I had to rub it with salt and pepper and slip herbs under its skin and let it rest for two days in the refrigerator rather than just one. But after that, all I had to do was stick the thing in the oven and flip it a few times to ensure even browning of the skin and out came the most beautifully burnished bird I've seen in...well, a long time. The meat was juicy and perfectly cooked and the drippings were rich and flavorful. 

The bread salad was a bit fussier but entirely worth it.Two kinds of vinegar, peppery arugula, toasted pine nuts and cubes of toasty bread lightly moistened with olive oil and chicken stock- this is seriously delicious stuff. Honestly, this recipe alone is well worth the price of the book, which I may now be forced to go out and buy once I return my copy to the library. 

The recipe for the chicken and salad takes up three pages of the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, so I won't write it all out here. Instead, I'll direct anyone who's interested here. My only real change is that I omitted currants from the salad since I'm not wild about dried fruit in salads. Apart from that, it was just perfect. 

Make this soon. 

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