Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Adapted (ever so slightly) from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Every now and again, I come across a recipe that changes something permanently for me. This is one of those recipes. If you have ever been to Judy Rodger’s Zuni Kitchen in San Francisco and you ordered the signature Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, you will know what I mean. I will never roast a chicken in any other way again! This recipe has become a regular in our rotation and it is loved unequivocally by adults and children alike. One word of warning: the best outcome involves a little forward-thinking. Trust me here, if you prepare the chicken a day or two ahead and let it sit, you will not be sorry. I promise.

  • For the chicken:
  • 1 whole chicken (no more than 3-1/2 pounds)
  • 4-6 sprigs of herbs (sage, basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme – what you like and have on hand!)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • For the salad:
  • 8 oz. slightly stale chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1- 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 1/4 cup scallions (about 2), white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lightly salted water
  • 2 cups arugula or mustard greens, washed and dried
  • The preparation of the chicken is at the heart of this recipe. I like to make this on a Sunday for a few reasons. First, it allows me to buy the chicken a day or two beforehand so I can prepare it accordingly (read on for details). Secondly, executing this recipe with care requires a little more time and attention than I typically have on an average Wednesday. Finally, if you’d like to have leftovers for the week, consider roasting a second chicken at the same time and using the meat in salads and other recipes as the week goes on. You’ve just saved yourself an important step!
  • Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any giblet or other surprises you find in the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then set it in a shallow dish. Tuck the sprigs of herbs in between the skin by gently loosening it from the meat; place under each breast and under each thigh. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt all over the bird, including a little on the inside. Concentrate on the meaty parts like the breast and legs. Sprinkle a little pepper, then wrap it loosely and refrigerate. In a perfect world, you will leave it there for at least 2 days. I’ve roasted it directly from this point without letting it sit, and it will come out fine. However, if you want the most juicy, tender bird you’ve ever had, let it sit.
  • For the bread salad:
  • Turn your broiler on and set the rack a few inches below. Cut all the crust off the bread and cut it into several large chunks. Brush all sides of the bread with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and broil, watching very closely. Don’t let it burn! Once the bread is toasty and browned, tear it or cut it into 1″ pieces and put it aside in bowl.
  • Next you will make the dressing. Combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the champagne vinegar. Salt and pepper it to taste. I find that a little more salt makes a difference here. Toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the bread and toss to coat.
  • At this time, soften the currants in a bowl with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside for just a bit.
  • To roast the chicken and assemble the salad:
  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. While oven is heating, take the bird out of the refrigerator and pat it dry with paper towels. It should be very dry in order to brown properly. Place the chicken breast side up (in a shallow, flameproof pan) into the oven on the middle rack. It should begin to brown and sizzle in about 20 minutes. Watch it closely…after 30 minutes or so, flip it. Roast it for about another 15 minutes, then flip it back again to finish off the breast and recrisp the skin.
  • While the chicken is roasting, toast the pine nuts either in an ovenproof dish or over the stove. Warm about a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, and add the garlic and scallions. Cook until softened, then scrape into the bread bowl. Drain the currants and add these to the bread, along with the toasted pine nuts. Add a little salted water to this mixture and toss. Pile the mixture into a baking dish, tent with foil and add it to the oven when you flip the chicken the last time.
  • When the chicken is done roasting, remove it from the oven and place it on a platter. Skim the clear layer of fat from the pan, leaving only the tasty drippings. Add a little hot water and swirl. Slash the skin between the thighs and breast, and add this flavorful juice into the drippings. This will be the critical element of your salad dressing.
  • To assemble the salad:
  • Place greens on a plate. Remove bread mixture from oven and spoon over greens. Toss gently. Drizzle with remaining dressing and pan drippings. Finally, cut the chicken into pieces and tuck in between the bread and salad greens. Serve immediately.

Preparation time: 40 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

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