Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

1 3- to 4-pound chicken, the smallest you can find (Judy Rodgers also specifies an organic and free-range chicken)
Fresh herbs, like thyme, sage, rosemary, or a mix

For salad:
8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried currants plumped in 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon warm water for ten minutes or so
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
A few handfuls of arugula, frisee, or other greens

Clean the chicken: Remove the giblets and save for another purpose or discard. Pat the chicken very dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Loosen the skin over the breasts: Slip your fingers between the skin and breast meat near the cavity of the chicken. Slide your fingers as far beneath the skin as you can manage without tearing the skin, creating a pocket.

Tuck herbs under the skin: Holding the pocket of skin open with one hand, use the other to tuck a stem or two of herbs under the skin.

Season the chicken: In a small dish, measure out 3/4 teaspoon of salt for every pound of chicken. Mix in some fresh pepper. Rub the outside of the chicken with the salt mixture, making sure to get under the wings and drumsticks and sprinkling heavily over the thicker parts of the breasts and thighs.
Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 3 days: Transfer the chicken, breast-side up, to a dinner plate or other shallow dish. Place the chicken, on the plate, inside a clean plastic grocery bag and loosely tie the opening closed. The chicken should be covered, but still with some air circulation around the bird. Chill for up to 3 days; the larger your chicken, the more it will benefit from a long chill.

Heat the oven and the baking dish: About an hour before baking, place the skillet or dish you’re using to roast the chicken into the oven on a middle rack. Heat the oven to 475°F.

Cook chicken: Uncover the chicken. Tilt it to drain any juices that have accumulated in the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Transfer the chicken to the baking dish: Remove the pre-heated pan from the oven and set it on the stovetop. Place the chicken in the hot pan, breast-side up. It should begin to sizzle immediately — if not, don’t worry, but increase the oven temperature by 25 degrees next time.

Roast the chicken for 20 to 30 minutes: Roast the chicken until you see the skin on the breasts start to blister and brown.
Flip the chicken breast-side down: Remove the pan from the oven and close the oven door. Carefully flip the chicken over using tongs and a spatula, covering your hands with oven mitts to protect from splashes.

Roast another 10 to 20 minutes: Roast breast-side down until the bottom also looks well-browned.

Flip and roast a final 5 to 10 minutes: Flip the chicken back over so that it’s breast-side up. Check the temperature and roast another 5 to 10 minutes, until the skin over the breasts is well-browned and the chicken registers at least 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh meat. Total roasting time is 45 minutes to 1 hour; the larger your chicken, the more time it will need.

Drain the juices from the chicken: Slash the skin connecting the thighs and the body of the chicken. Tilt the chicken in the pan so that any juices inside the chicken run out into the pan.
Rest the chicken: Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or cutting board. Let the chicken rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Simmer the pan drippings: While the chicken is resting, prepare the pan drippings. Tilt the pan to collect all the juices to one side and skim off any fat with a spoon. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for a minute or two, scraping up any roasted bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. You can also make a pan sauce or a gravy from the drippings, if you prefer.

Carve the chicken and serve: Use a sharp knife to cut away the wings and the thighs from the chicken where they join the body. Separate the drumsticks and the thighs at the joint. Keeping your knife close to the bone and parallel to the ribs, cut away the chicken breasts. Serve immediately with the pan sauce, gravy, or pan drippings while the skin is crispy.

When you follow this method, you’ll end up with a pan full of flavorful juices and drippings at the end of roasting. You can do what the chefs at The Zuni Cafe do and toss the drippings with a salad of toasted bread and fresh greens — this bread salad, combined with pieces from the carved chicken, is the dish that made this restaurant famous.

For the salad:

Preheat the broiler. Carve off all of the bottom and most of the top and side crusts from your bread (you can reserve these to use as croutons for soup or another salad). Tear bread into irregular 2- to 3-inch chunks, wads, bite-sized bits and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

Toss them with just a tablespoon or two of olive oil, lightly coating them, and broil them very briefly, just to lightly color the edges. If you’d like to toast the pine nuts (recommended) you can put them on your broiler tray as well, but watch them very carefully — they cook quickly!

Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.

Heat a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold them in, along with the pine nuts, if they were not already mixed with the bread scraps from the broiling step. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again.

Taste a few pieces of bread — a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well.

If you’re going to serve the salad under the roast chicken (recipe above), you can pile the bread salad on the serving dish you want to use and tent it with foil. If you want to serve it separately, do the same, but in a 1-quart shallow baking dish. Hang onto the bowl you mixed it in — you’ll use it again.

Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time, for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Tip the bread salad back into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

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