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.
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.
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.