Roast Chicken with Naughty Bread Salad

August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

The dish I’m writing about is well-documented in the blogosphere.  Google ‘Zuni Cafe Chicken with Bread Salad’ and you’ll see.  I’ve been trawling the internet for nearly an hour, looking for a blog post to link to that describes this dish the way I cooked it tonight, and I haven’t found one.  So I need to write one, because I hope you make this dinner, and I hope you make it JUST LIKE THIS.  This is essentially a warm bread salad –  Croutons of the Gods, tossed with warm greens and crowned with golden roasted chicken.

A little background… One evening last winter I cooked my usual roast chicken. On this fateful night I took the very good advice of cookbook author Dorie Greenspan and placed a few slices of baguette under the chicken.  The bread soaked up the juices from the chicken, caramelized, and transformed into crispy but chewy pieces of Nirvana.  It’s like roasted chicken skin, but bread.  “This is naughty,” my husband declared with a gleeful smile.  And there hasn’t been a chicken roasted in this house without Naughty Bread since.  Cholesterol, wha…?  My only advice regarding naughty bread: 1) Use sturdy bread.  I prefer baguette sliced lengthwise, crust side up.  The chicken lying on the hearty crust keeps things from getting soggy.  2) Roast your bird at a high heat, at least at the beginning of the cooking time. Otherwise you’ll have Soggy Bread, which is not heavenly at all.

So, when I stumbled upon a recipe that involved tossing toasted bread in chicken drippings I was at full attention.  I found this recipe in Mediterranean Grains & Greens by Paula Wolfert, but it originated at Judy Rodger’s Zuni Cafe.  This is my variation on their genius.

Ingredients

1 5lb chicken

1 sprig rosemary, minced

3 Tbsp butter, softened

2 cloves garlic, crushed

salt

pepper

4C day-old Ciabatta bread or similar, crust removed, cut into 1″ cubes

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp currants

3C frisee greens, or similar, washed & trimmed

3C radicchio, or similar, washed & trimmed

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 scallions, white & light green parts only, thinly sliced

Method:

Steps 1 through 3 can be done early in the day…

1. Combine half of the garlic, the rosemary, a few pinches of salt and pepper with the butter.  Rub this mixture on the chicken skin and under the breast skin.  If you’ll be cooking the bird soon, leave it out to reach room  temperature.  Otherwise, refrigerated until an hour before cooking.  Putting meat in the oven when it’s room temperature allows it to cook more evenly.

2. Toast the bread cubes lightly on all sides under the broiler.  Put them in a large 9×18″ ovenproof dish, then set them aside.

3.In a bowl, soak the currants in the cider vinegar combined with 1 Tbsp warm water.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  But the bird on a rack in a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes.  Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and continue roasting for about 1 hour, until the juices from the thigh run clear.  Remove the chicken from the oven and let stand, covered, 10-15 minutes.  Don’t turn off the oven yet!

5. While the chicken is resting, toss reserved bread cubes with a mixture of the cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place the bread cubes in the hot oven for 5 minutes.  Pour off all but 2 Tbsp of fat from the roasting pan.  Set the pan on the stovetop over medium heat, add the scallions and remaining garlic, and cook, scraping up the delicious brown bits from the pan.  Stir in the currants and soaking liquid and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

6.  Remove the bread from the oven, and turn off the heat.  Pour the contents of the roasting pan over the bread…mmm… there’s your vinaigrette.  Stir in most of the frisee and radicchio and toss well, coating the greens with the dressing.  Return the bread and greens to the oven to bake in the receding heat for 5 minutes.

7. Carve the chicken into 8 pieces.  Remove the bread and greens from the oven, fold in the remaining greens, top with the chicken and serve.

8. Swoon.

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