Saturday, January 30, 2010

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Zuni Chicken

It's shabbat, which means it's roasted chicken night in our Chewish household.  Since my last chicken recipe experiment went so well, I thought I'd try out another: Zuni Cafe's Roasted Chicken.  I've been eager to try this recipe ever since I first saw it on Smitten Kitchen.  It basically involves roasting a small, whole bird on very high heat; the chicken self-bastes in its own juices (no additional fat is added), and the result is heavenly -- crisp skin on the outside, and juicy, delectable meat on the inside.

The recipe is available all over the internet, but the clearest, easiest-to-follow one is at Serious Eats.  (Don't miss Smitten Kitchen's post, though: it will make you drool and inspire you to run out immediately to the market for a chicken.)  Of course, I tweaked the recipe a little, and I actually think it made the chicken even better.

That's right, Zuni, my chicken brings all the boys to the yard. Well, just my husband to the dinner table, but you get the idea.

Here are my secrets.  First, get yourself a kosher chicken, of no more than 3 or 4 lbs.  (The Empire brand whole chickens at Trader Joe's are always a good bet.)  The Zuni recipe tells you to dry-brine the bird by salting it all over and putting it in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight.  Getting a kosher chicken expands upon that idea; the salt makes the chicken extra tasty and juicy.  It's like magic.

Second, use lots of fresh herbs.  The Zuni recipe calls for 4 sprigs of herbs, 1 sprig for each quarter of the bird.  You're supposed to make pockets between the skin and each breast, as well as between the skin and each thigh, and to put a sprig into each pocket.  But why use 1 sprig, when you can use many?  I squished a few sprigs of rosemary, sage, and tarragon into each pocket.  As a result, even the usually blah white meat was full of flavor.

Image source: Smitten Kitchen

The Zuni Chicken is served over a complicated bread salad, which I was too lazy to make.  I just toasted some rough-chopped pieces of stale boule with a bit of reserved chicken fat, tossed the bread with spring mix, and dressed the whole thing with a combination of champagne vinegar, warm chicken drippings, and a squeeze of lemon.  I garnished with a few Fuji apple slices for sweetness and crunch.

It was spectacular.  Seriously.

As a side dish, I roasted an array of vegies: teeny potatoes, peppers, fennel bulbs, garlic, leeks, butternut squash, and brussel sprouts.

All I do is create little compartments for each vegetable with foil, so that I can flavor each vegetable differently but still roast them in the same Pyrex roaster.  The butternut squash was tossed with maple syrup and cumin; the sprouts and potatoes were first parboiled and then tossed with shallots, herbs, and chicken broth; the fennel got a sprinkling of parmesan; and the peppers, leeks, and garlic got a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of the herb mix I used in the chicken.

Another shabbat, another chicken recipe!  Oy.  We're going to turn into poultry by the end of the year.

Do you have a favorite chicken recipe?  I only have 7 days to come up with another one.

Update: Read about our visit to Zuni Cafe here.


violarulz/ducksandbooks January 31, 2010 at 12:09 AM  

I wish I could remember to take pictures of more of my cooking adventures.... Anyway, you inspired me to make a list: Foods I like to cook/eat for shabbos dinner. Let me know if you like any of them, I made the baked fish with coriander-cumin tomato sauce, and we just made the sweet potato gnocchi dish today as our big project. Yum!

Mrs. Hot Cocoa January 31, 2010 at 12:21 AM  

@violaruz/ducksandbooks: Thanks so much for sharing this -- what a great list. I'm excited to make many of these recipes, esp. the sweet potato gnocchi! I loved looking at your wedding site too!

Woman with a Whisk February 2, 2010 at 10:42 AM  

LOVE the idea to create little compartments for the veggies!

M and C February 3, 2010 at 7:28 PM  

I'm hungry now! I'm going to have to make this too.

Anonymous,  May 30, 2012 at 1:09 PM  

Jamie Oliver Perfect Roast Chicken

One 2 1/2-3 lb. free-range chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 small handfuls of fresh herbs (basil, parsley, marjoram), finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, halved
4 bay leaves, torn
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven and a roasting tray to 425 F. Wash the chicken inside and out, and pat it as dry as possible with paper towels. Some people remove the wishbone, but I like to leave it in and later make a wish. Rub the cavity with salt; then, being very careful, grab the skin at the tip of the chicken breasts, making sure that it doesn’t rip, and pull up gently. With your other hand, gently separate the skin from the meat of the breast. It’s normally connected by a little bit of tissuey-type stuff, and you can either leave this attached in the middle and make two little tunnels either side, or you can try to cut away the middle. Sprinkle a little salt down the gaps that you have made and push in the chopped herbs. Drizzle in a little olive oil. I don’t always stuff the chicken but when I do I generally go with lemon, bay and rosemary, which I push into the cavity at this point. Pull the skin of the chicken breast forward so that none of the actual flesh is exposed, tuck the little winglets under and tie up as firmly as possible with kitchen twine.

To me, the perfect roast chicken has tender moist breast meat, crisp skin and, dare I say it, overcooked thigh meat. So at this point, simply slash across each thigh about 3 or 4 times and rub in some of the leftover herbs, which allows the heat to penetrate directly into the thigh meat, enabling it to cook faster. With your hand, rub a little olive oil into the skin of the chicken and season very generously with salt and pepper. Remove the hot tray from the oven and add a little oil. Put the chicken on one side, breast side down on the tray, and put back into the oven. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then turn it over on to the other side, breast side down. Cook for another 5 minutes and then place the chicken on its back. Cook for 1 hour.

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