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We pay homage to a San Francisco cafe’s roast chicken

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For our own take on Zuni Cafe’s roast chicken with bread salad, we started by butterflying a whole chicken and salting it overnight so it would cook quickly and evenly and be juicy and well-seasoned.

Before roasting the chicken in a 475-degree oven, we covered the bottom of a skillet with bread cubes that we had moistened with oil and broth and then draped the chicken on top. The bread cubes toasted and browned beneath the bird while absorbing its juices to create a mix of moistened, crispy-fried, and chewy pieces all packed with savory flavor.

To finish the dish, we built a vinaigrette of champagne vinegar, oil, currants, thinly sliced scallions, Dijon mustard and chicken drippings that we tossed with peppery arugula and the toasted bread. We served the salad alongside the carved chicken so the greens didn’t wilt.

Tasty tips

Roast Chicken with Warm Bread Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1 (4-pound) whole chicken, giblets discarded

Kosher salt

Pepper

4 (1-inch-thick) slices country-style bread (8 ounces), bottom crust removed, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces (5 cups)

1/4 cup chicken broth

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

 

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 scallions, sliced thin

2 tablespoons dried currants

5 ounces (5 cups) baby arugula

1. Place chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut through the bones on either side of the backbone; discard backbone. Do not trim off any excess fat or skin. Flip chicken over and press on breastbone to flatten.

2. Using your fingers, carefully loosen the skin covering the breast and legs. Rub 1/2 teaspoon salt under the skin of each breast, 1/2 teaspoon under the skin of each leg, and 1 teaspoon salt onto bird’s cavity. Tuck wings behind back and turn legs so drumsticks face inward toward breasts. Place chicken on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet or on a large plate and refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours.

3. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Spray a 12-inch skillet with vegetable oil spray. Toss bread with broth and 2 tablespoons oil until pieces are evenly moistened. Arrange the bread in the skillet in a single layer, with majority of crusted pieces near the center, crust side up.

4. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place, skin side up, on top of bread. Brush 2 teaspoons oil over chicken skin and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast chicken until skin is deep golden brown and the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the skillet halfway through roasting.

5. While chicken roasts, whisk vinegar, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in small bowl. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil. Stir in scallions and currants and set aside. Place arugula in a large bowl.

6. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Run a thin metal spatula under the bread to loosen it from the bottom of the skillet. (Bread should be a mix of softened, golden-brown, and crunchy pieces.) Carve chicken and whisk any accumulated juices into the vinaigrette. Add bread and vinaigrette to arugula and toss to evenly coat. Transfer salad to a serving platter and serve with chicken.

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