So I’ve been eyeing this Zuni Roast Chicken recipe for the last week or so. But a few things stopped me from getting this done as soon as I saw the recipe: 1) I needed to run to the store and pick up a bird and carry it 15 minutes back (no car in the city!), 2) I needed to brine it for at least 2 days. Besides the time consuming nature of prepping this bird, it is a super easy recipe to make over and over again. This is a true roasted bird, not some “steamed” bird where you put aluminum foil over the top to keep it from burning and then take it off part of the way through. This bird requires full blast oven heat in order to get beautifully browned. This is not for the faint of heart. Bubbling chicken fat and hot hot heat / 500 degree oven can cause burns. Luckily, I walked away unscathed! 😛
A few modifications I made to the recipe: I used dried thyme (since that’s what I had on hand) and I left off the black pepper on the chicken — in fear that it might get burned on the outside at 500 degrees (needed to run my oven hotter since I don’t have a convection oven to distribute the heat around). Whether that fear was warranted or not, I will never know. But I do know this bird was juicy, moist and tasty. Maybe, one of the best birds I’ve roasted thus far. I salted generously with sea salt (coarse pulverized into semi-fine sea salt) and let it sit in a Cambro slightly covered for 2 days. On a side note, normally I brine my chicken in a salt + h20 solution. I’m kind of liking this all salt, no liquid method better though. Less waste of water (we are in a drought after all) and a crispier skin! 😀
After two days of the bird airing chilling in the fridge, I spent some time patting it dry (this is the key to crispy, browned skin!). Then I let it sizzle in my heated cast iron skillet, and transferred it to the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I reduced the temp to 475 (I think by the 20 minute mark there was some light smoke in the oven, though no charring), flipped the bird, and roasted for another 10 minutes. The last 5 minutes was at 450 since it was just for flipping the bird again to re-crisp the skin and heat up my bread salad. Here’s the bird, breast side up, straight out of the oven:
Here’s the bird, breast side down. I’ve never gotten this wonderfully magnificent color on a bird before and I have to say, I am quite pleased and thrilled to have learned a new, simple technique to add to my arsenal! 🙂
I think the bread salad was the most time consuming/manual labor (which isn’t really all that much, but more work than the bird itself). Here’s the Bread Salad recipe I adapted below — as I had to make a few substitutions based on what I had on hand. Here’s the quick and dirty process:
- Toast almonds in a saute pan. Soak cranberries (recipe calls for currants) in red wine vinegar and water for 10 minutes.
- Cut off tops and bottoms (crust) of bread. Tore the soft inside bread into pieces, coated it lightly in olive oil and baked on a baking sheet rack for 7 minutes at 500 degrees, until the edges were brown and crisp.
- Drizzle bread with balsamic (recipe calls for champagne or white wine vinegar) and olive oil dressing, season with s&p. Add almonds and cranberries.
- Saute leeks (recipe calls for garlic and scallions) and season with garlic powder, s&p, a tsp of chicken bouillon paste and 2T of water. Add to bread mix.
- Transfer to baking dish with aluminum foil cover and bake with chicken on the last flip. Remove from oven and transfer back to mixing bowl with mustard greens and red kale. Heat of bread salad wilts the greens nicely. Season with more s&p and balsamic and olive oil. Finish with a couple of spoonfuls of chicken fond (deglazed from the roasting pan). Bread is chewy, soft, and some slightly crunchy.