No official Top Chef this week, as Michael and Joe were unable to come, and Mitch and Eileen are leaving for vacation today. That, however, didn’t prevent me from cooking. Indeed, the foundation for Thursday’s meal was laid on Monday night, and the meal, once started, must be completed.
“Monday night?” you ask. Why Monday night? Well, while perusing the chowhound message boards I ran across a reference to “Zuni Chicken,” and how good it is. Since I’m now getting whole roasters from my CSA, I thought I should look into it. After some delving, it turns out they were referring to the recipe from the Zuni Cafe in SanFrancisco. I found a summary (apparently simplified somewhat) on SmittenKitchen.
This is a long (temporally) recipe that requires a dry brine, taking anywhere from 1-3 days. The recipe calls for a 2.75-3.5 lb bird, but mine was 4.5 lbs, so I went for the full 3 day brine. That process started on Monday (see, now it makes sense!). Although cooking is technically a 3 day process, most of that is down time, and the recipe is actually quite easy. There was nothing to do with the bird until I got home from work on Thursday and turned on the oven and popped it in.
The more difficult part of the recipe is the bread salad, but even that wasn’t particularly difficult. I started that on Wednesday by prepping my mise en place. The whole thing came together fairly quickly on Thursday. This definitely requires a bit of forward planning, but comes together easily in the end.
On Thursday when all was done, I pulled the chicken out of the oven (which was now distinctly smoky and greasy) and took it to N & R’s for Cinco de Mayo. The chicken was beautiful, and it was just incredibly delicious. The skin was crispy, flavorful, and beautifully golden. The meat was moist and flavorful. This recipe made me love roast chicken again. How I’ve forgotten the joys of that particular dish. Never again. And chicken skin … which I haven’t eaten in years. The joys of my childhood come back to me with compelling presence.
The bread salad was wonderful, even thought I forgot to add the arugula. Despite the omission, it was a singular joy that left me noshing on it all evening.
The meal was a bit of a surprise to Natalie and Richard, so they offered a vegetable (salsa!) as well as a margarita for the holiday. And oreos for dessert (another guilty joy that evokes memories of youth).
March 21, 2021
I love this chicken. I mostly don’t bother with the bread salad, but I should try to make it sometime – it’s killer.