Thursday, 14 July 2011

Let Me Count the Ways


            All my good cookbooks seem to have a recipe for “the best roast chicken”. But really, how many roast chicken recipes does one need? Besides, what used to be an easy and relaxing dinner to prepare, has become an exercise in confused hesitation. I tend to lay out hundreds of methods in front of me (well, at least five) and mix them all up together. This actually leaves me with no method at all.
            So, I have developed two (which morphed into three) schools of thought. Buy either a large roaster, season it any darn way you want, and stick it in a 450F oven for 20minutes, then reduce heat to 350F oven. Should take about 20 minutes per pound. Remove chicken from pan and tent loosely with foil. Let sit for ½ hour to 45 minutes. Meanshtvile, skim fat from drippings, add chicken broth, herbs and lemon zest and reduce, scraping stuck bits. Add lemon juice or white wine and reduce a bit more. (If using white wine, you could omit the lemon zest.)
            OR--- plan your chicken two days in advance. If you have enough time to follow a four page recipe get out Judy Rodger’s Zuni Café cookbook. and prepare the Zuni Café Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. It is the most deliriously divine chicken dish I have ever tasted.
            OR-- and this I think is the best, follow my dumbed down version of the heavenly Zuni Chicken. This way, you can have fabulous poultry and a life.
            This is better suited to my attention span.
So there, I do have a Roast Chicken recipe. Or two. Just what you need, more roast chicken recipes.

Dishevelled CHEF’S NOT Quite Zuni Chicken

1 small fryer 2 ½ to 3 ½ pounds
¾ teaspoon salt per pound chicken
Lots of pepper
Sage, rosemary, thyme or combination thereof (a nice poultry seasoning works well)

One to two days before roasting, wash and dry chicken well. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and whatever herbs you prefer. Cover loosely with wax paper and refrigerate.
When ready to roast, preheat oven to 475 degrees. Heat whatever roasting pan you choose to use (should be heavy and oven proof, and not much larger than chicken). After preheating, place chicken in the pan. Roast for about an hour, give or take 10 minutes depending on size of bird.
Remove chicken from roasting pan and place on a plate (chicken should be dark brown and crispy and the leg should be able to be jiggled a bit). Meanwhile, pour excess fat from roasting pan. To remaining juices add a bit of white wine, chicken broth or just water (a few tablespoons are all you need) and bring to simmer over stove. Slash the chicken above thighs and breasts and dump all accumulated juices from chicken and plate into the simmering pan. Keep warm.
After chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, cut into quarters, placing any accumulated juices into pan juices. Set atop the Zuni Bread Salad and pour remaining pan juices over all.


Loaf of heavy, chewy bread (about a pound worth)
Olive oil for bread
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon warm water
¼ cup pine nuts (toasted)
8 ounces mixed greens (arugula, baby spinach, herbs, or any combination of)

Preheat broiler. Tear bread into 2-3 inch chunks. Place on large baking sheet and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Place baking sheet on top rack and toast in the oven along with chicken (at 475 degrees) until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven.
In separate bowl, combine dried cranberries with red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk remaining olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic together in large serving bowl. Add warm bread pieces, tossing as you go. Taste for seasonings. Cover with foil and set in a warm spot.
Drain plumped dried cranberries. Add cranberries and toasted pine nuts to bread mixture. Fold in.
After preparing chicken pan juices, toss bread mixture with a couple tablespoons of pan juices, a little red wine vinegar and the greens. Taste again for seasoning.
Place carved chicken amongst bread salad, drizzle the pan juices over chicken and serve.
(We like to add a crispy skinned baked potato to this meal and some roasted carrots. Save some pan juices to drizzle over potatoes.)

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