First of all, I’m excited to tell you that this is my very first post on my very first laptop, and I’m wireless from my very own couch! And that’s because I am now the proud owner of a brand new MacBook Pro!
As much as I do love writing this blog (even more so now from my comfy couch), this laptop was actually purchased with my day job in mind, which is television editing. (In other words, I have a big fat mortgage to pay off.) But the really good news is that I also plan on shooting and editing videos for littleclove while I still have some time off this summer, so look for those soon!
Anyway, being the foodie person that I am, I love reading other food blogs. I’m a bit obsessed with it, actually. This new obsession is slowly replacing my food magazine addiction. Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t part with those things. In fact, just yesterday, Alma, my friend and beloved cleaning woman, organized my entire collection of food magazines. I’m now calling it a collection because when the numbers get to be in the upper hundreds, what else do you call it? Hoarding, maybe.
Apparently Alma was tired of cleaning around magazines stashed under my bed, stacked up high in my closets and busting out of the drawers in my kitchen. She took it upon herself to reorganize my entire basement around this collection, utilizing space I never realized I had. I imagine this is going to make her life so much easier!
She threw out all of the junk that had mysteriously crept its way down there, and discovered rows and rows of really nice shelves I didn’t even know existed. My beloved Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Cook’s Illustrated magazines, among others, are now neatly stacked in their own section of the basement. They are even sorted by month! Thank goodness that my recipe for old fashioned homemade cherry pie which is featured in the 1988 July addition of Gourmet is right at my fingertips if I ever get an inkling to make it for a future Independence Day celebration.
Anyway, as I’ve been happily reading, book-marking and printing recipes from other food blogs, along the way I noticed a cookbook that was often being referenced called, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, by Judy Rogers. The Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco that has been around for years and fellow food bloggers rave about these recipes, especially the Zuni roast chicken with bread salad, which is a favorite on their menu.
Yes, you read that right. Bread salad! Doesn’t that just sound decadent?!
I’d been dying to try this roasted chicken and bread salad for weeks after reading about it earlier this summer and I also felt like I really needed in on this particular cookbook, so I ran out to Barnes and Noble and picked it up. It’s a hard cover, big and thick, definitely a food lover’s cookbook. Of course the night I bought it I stayed up way too late reading.
Judy studied with the Troisgros brothers of the restaurant Troisgros, in Roanne, France and then went on to Italy, Sicily, Catalonia and Greece. She watched, took notes and tasted lots, and then brought everything she learned back to The Zuni Cafe, a place that is definitely going on my someday list. Along with recipes, she tells stories throughout the book and gives cooking advice and lessons. I’m really learning to be a better cook with every recipe.
For instance, one thing Judy learned in France many years ago is to taste as you go. You taste it, see what it needs and add. Taste, add, taste, add. I grew up watching my mom do this, while also asking us to taste things for her. A little more salt, maybe another grate of cheese. I’m a big believer in tasting as you go.
Something else I’ve learned about is the practice of “salting early”. I mentioned this here when I made that great steak that I told you about where I let the salt sit on it for 30 minutes to flavor and tenderize it. The Zuni roast chicken is prepared this way, too.
Salt + time = tasty and tender.
Using this method, you let the chicken rest, salted, in the fridge for 2-3 days. Since I loved that steak so much, I was curious to see what a difference this could make with chicken. And, WOW!
What it does is make super tasty, moist and tender chicken! It’s crazy good. It seems to just melt in your mouth.
I’ve used this method a bunch of times already this summer, and I don’t think I’ll ever make a roasted chicken any other way. When I find something I like, I have no shame in admitting that I like to make it over and over and over. And over.
Anyway, yes I realize it’s July. It’s been very hot in Chicago, the east coast is roasting and down south they’re burning up, too. I know what you’re thinking. Not a great time to turn your oven on to roast a chicken. But, I couldn’t resist sharing this with you. Today. I did not want another minute to go by. It’s delectable. And I’m fairly certain I’ve never ever had the chance to use the word delectable before. It’s that good. And the oven is only on for an hour anyway.
So you want to find a small chicken. Small chickens, 2 ¾- 3 1/2 pounds, roast quickly and evenly, and with lots of skin per ounce of meat, they’re very tasty. (Learned that from Judy, too). Next time you happen to see those pre-roasted whole chickens in the deli case at the grocery store, you’ll notice that they’re pretty tiny. That’s no accident.
I asked the butcher at my local Fresh Market for the smallest chicken they had. It was 3 1/2 pounds, on the larger side, but good. You clean it, dry it, stuff some fresh herbs under it’s skin in a few places and then salt it up with sea salt or Kosher salt (don’t use table salt), about ¾ teaspoon per pound. Pop it in the oven for 30 mins, flip it, and roast for another 20. That’s it! Oven’s off.
I have never made a roasted chicken this good in my entire life. And I’ve roasted my fair share of chickens.
And as long as you’re turning your oven on to make the chicken, you absolutely must try this amazing bread salad, too.
Can’t you just imagine how good this tastes?
Warm, crispy yet chewy bread chunks mixed with arugula, toasty pine nuts, scallions and the delicious warm drippings from that tasty roasted chicken? Wow.
It’s made with day old bread (slightly stale). I use that same good-quality Tuscan country bread that I use for my meatballs. You really want it slightly stale, so give it some air. And make sure to let the bread get nice and crispy in the oven. When the warm dressing is drizzled over it, it softens up and you have crispy bits mixed with chewy bits and it’s killer. Actually, this is a pretty perfect summer meal, oven and all.
Just telling you about it is making my mouth water.
Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
Adapted from the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Judy Rogers
Makes 2-3 servings
For the chicken:
1 small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2
6 sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary or sage, about 2“ long (I like to mix them up)
Kosher or sea salt (not table salt), ¾ teaspoon per pound of chicken
Black pepper, freshly ground
For the salad:
A couple of thick slices of day-old (slightly stale) chewy, country bread (not sourdough), approximately 4 cups when chunked up
6 to 8 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1 teasp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp warm water
2 tbsp pine nuts
2-3 garlic cloves, slivered
¼ cup scallions (about 4 scallions) slivered, including some of the green part
2 tbsp chicken stock
A few handfuls of arugula, carefully washed and dried
Salting the chicken (48 hours before roasting):
First, remove and discard any giblets inside the cavity. Rinse the chicken, and thoroughly pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Place the chicken breast side up in a shallow glass or ceramic pan. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each breast, making two small pockets. Slide a couple of herb sprigs into each pocket, and place the other two sprigs inside the cavity. Season the chicken liberally all over with the salt, using your hands to massage it into the skin, concentrating more on the meaty breasts and thighs than the bony wings and ankles. Sprinkle a bit of salt inside the cavity. Give it a few grinds of black pepper. Tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders, cover the chicken loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Starting the bread salad (up to several hours in advance):
Preheat the broiler.
Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust. Cut the bread into large crouton-like chunks. You should get about 4 cups or so. Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread over and crisp the other side. Make sure it’s pretty crispy, but don’t burn it.
Combine ¼ cup of the olive oil with the white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about ¼ cup of this vinaigrette with the bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a bit more salt and pepper and toss again.
Place the cranberries in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and the warm water. Set aside.
Roasting the chicken and assembling the salad:
Preheat the oven to 475º. Choose a shallow, flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken. Preheat the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry with paper towels, and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle. Place the pan in the middle of the oven, and listen and watch for the chicken to sizzle and start browning within 20 minutes. The skin should blister a bit, but it shouldn’t blacken or smoke; if it does, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Conversely, if the chicken isn’t browning, raise the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, gently turn the chicken over. Roast for another 15-20 minutes, depending on size, then flip it back breast side up to brown it for another 5-10 minutes. Total roasting time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the hot oven for a minute or two to warm them. Add them to the bowl of bread.
Place a tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and scallions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped cranberries and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock over the salad and fold again. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper accordingly.
Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time.
Finishing and serving the chicken and bread salad:
Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes or so. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Cut the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.
Set the chicken in a warm spot (I use the stovetop) and leave to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat becomes more tender as it cools.
Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften the hard drippings. Taste. It should be extremely flavorful.
Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist chunks, crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful or two of the pan juices. Add the arugula, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.
Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the platter and nestle the chicken in the salad.
Oh, I just know you are going to love this!