I have been thinking of a good introduction to this post but couldn’t think of anything but this : you will never roast chicken the same way again. Apparently, this is one of the 10 most blogged-about recipes online. The recipe is adapted from San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe and made famous by its chef Judy Rogers. The method is dry brining or salting a few days before roasting and stuffing herbs under the chicken’s skin to ensure not only a perfectly seasoned bird but one that can be roasted to juicy perfection without the addition of butter or oil. I got so curious because roast chicken is a favorite in our household. So, I clicked on this link, had a look at the long list of what to do, which was a bit daunting at first but reading the instructions again, I thought it is very doable. The lovely rustic bread salad that it is served with requires a bit of preparation but very much worth it. I will try to simplify the instructions as much as possible, writing down what I did step by step to create this wonderful dish.
For the chicken:
- Small chicken, 1-1.2 kg
- 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage
- salt (3/4 tsp/500g of chicken)
- about 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- a little water
For the salad:
- 200-250g slightly stale peasant-style bread
- 3-4 tbs of oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes (or regular olive oil)
- 1/4 cup mild-tasting olive oil
- 1-1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
- salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 tbs dried currants or sultanas
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 tbs warm water
- 2 tbs pine nuts
- 2-3 garlic cloves, slivered
- 1/2 cup slivered scallions (shallots), about 4 scallions including a little of the green part
- 2 tbs lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
- a few handfuls of baby rocket salad leaves
Dry brining the chicken done 1-3 days ahead: (I did mine 2 days ahead)
1. Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Drying it thoroughly ensures that it is golden brown when roasting.
2. Breast side up, with the chicken drumsticks facing towards you, slide a finger under the skin of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove a herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
3. Sprinkle well all over salt and pepper seasoning, the thick sections a little more heavily than the ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity and the backbone. Cover loosely and refrigerate until day of roasting.
Day of roasting the chicken:
1. Preheat oven to 240C degrees. Place a roasting tin in the oven to heat up.
2. While it is heating up, wipe the chicken thoroughly dry using several paper towels. once the roasting tin is hot, place the chicken breast side up in the pan. You don’t need to grease the roasting tray if you have dried the chicken and preheated the tray properly. You should hear it sizzles once you place the chicken in the pan.
3. Place tray in center of the oven. It should start to brown within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t , raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
4. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over with the breast side down and roast for another 10-20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin for another 5-10 minutes. Total roasting time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
Prepare the salad while chicken is roasting.
1. Preheat the grill. Cut the bread into slices removing as much crust as possible. Brush the bread all over with the herbed olive oil. Grill briefly on both side until golden and crisp. Cut or tear the slices into small-bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
2. Combine white wine vinegar with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over toasted bread pieces.
3. Toast the pine nuts until golden and add to toasted bread. In a skillet, add a bit of olive oil and cook garlic and scallions until softened. Add to toasted bread pieces.
4. Place the currants or sultanas in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside and let currants absorb the liquid.
During the last ten minutes of roasting chicken (flipping the chicken the last time)
1. Drain the currants and sprinkle over bread pieces. Sprinkle the chicken stock over the salad and toss. Taste for seasoning.
2. Pile the bread salad in a baking dish and tent with foil. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the last time.
Assembling the dish:
1. Remove chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss the toasted bread salad and greens together. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper or vinaigrette if necessary.
3. Spread the bread salad on a platter and place chicken in the middle of the salad. You can leave it whole or cut chicken into pieces.