Originally posted December 05, 2011

Zuni Chicken

Zuni Chicken by belinda

I think the Zuni chicken is the gold standard and once you do it, you can never go back. My chicken is ugly because I had problems flipping it and tore the skin (tongs and silicone mitts failed). If anyone knows a good way to flip a chicken, I'm all ears. Even though I skipped the herbs and used a 5-pound chicken, it tastes amazing.

Ingredients

  • One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
  • 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
  • Salt
  • About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • A little water
2 to 4 servings

Directions

Seasoning the chicken (Can be done 1 to 3 days before serving):

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough-a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each 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 and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper {we use ¾ teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken}. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Roasting the chicken:

Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking by 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Place the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

Finishing the chicken:

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting oven, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.

Set the chicken in a warm spot. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Capitalizing on leftovers:

Strain and save the drippings you don’t use, they are delicious tossed with spätzle or egg noodles, or stirred into beans or risotto. You can also use them, plus leftover scraps of roast chicken, for a chicken salad.

Comments

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  • commented over 7 years ago

    Judy says yes on the room temp bird. Good idea on the vertical chicken, will have to try it.

  • commented over 7 years ago

    Do I need to let the bird come to room temp before putting into the oven?
    re: your turning problem flipping the bird, how about roasting it vertically? Just plug a glass beer bottle into the opening to allow it to stand up.

Adapted from

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers and Gerald Asher

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