Zuni Café Chicken in Your Oven

The late, great Judy Rodgers created this recipe when she opened Zuni Café in the late 1980’s. This modified version of the Zuni Café oven-roasted chicken is a delicious meal. On three different occasions, we have served this to friends. It is easy entertaining. Because it has a bread and arugula salad, it makes for a complete meal. This recipe feeds four.

Zuni Café Oven-Roasted Chicken

For the exact recipe and a video showing all the steps, go to the Cooks Illustrated Website. You will need to subscribe but it is well worth it. Their recipes are excellent. I altered the Cooks Illustrated version slightly to accommodate our tastes. There are other versions of the recipe; here is one at Food and Wine.

Ingredients for the roast chicken

  • One fryer chicken – 2.5 to 3 lbs. I get Mary’s Organic Chicken at the Safeway or Whole Foods. It is in the refrigerator section. TJ’s also has organic chickens.
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt *
  • One loaf of sourdough bread. I use Acme Sourdough at Lunardi’s or Whole Foods
  • Three tablespoons of dried currants. Sun•Maid has them in a box just like raisins
  • Seven Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Three to four green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of chicken broth
  • About 5 to 6 ounces of baby arugula. I use Earthbound Farms Arugula. This arugula has a lot of zip to it.
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions for the roast chicken

  • Important for the best result: The night before, butterfly the chicken by cutting out the backbone using kitchen shears.
  • Place the chicken on a cutting board. Put one hand on top of the other and push down on the top of the chicken to flatten.
  • Place a teaspoon of Diamond Crystal salt under the skin of the chicken legs and another teaspoon under the skin of the breast. Use your fingers and the back of a spoon to open the skin and spread the salt.
  • Turn chicken over and spead a tablespoon of salt on the inside of the chicken.
  • Place chicken, skin side up, on cooking grate on top of a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours.
  • Take the chicken out of the refrigerator.
  • Prepare bread – cut into one-inch cubes. Place bread cubes in a bowl.
  • Add the chicken broth and two tablespoons of olive oil; mix bread until all the cubes are moist.
  • Coat a 12-inch pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.
  • Spread out bread cubes in one layer of the pan, with the bread cubes that are crust side up in the middle of the pan. See photo below.
  • Place chicken on top of bread, skin side up.
  • Dry the chicken with paper towels and brush skin with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Roast at 475 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes on the middle rack. Cook until internal chicken temperature reaches 160 degrees in breast and 175 in thighs.
  • While chicken cooks, make the vinaigrette for the arugula salad. Mix the vinegar with the teaspoon of Dijon mustard and whisk in the remaining olive oil.
  • When chicken is done, let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  • In a large bowl, mix the arugula with the dressing and toss in the dried currants.
  • Toss the bread cubes in with the Arugula.
  • Carve chicken and place around a serving dish.
  • Add the Arugula and bread mix to the center.
  • Serve and enjoy

The reason for the Morton Salt: Chef Samin Nosrat in her book and on the Netflix series explains that Diamond Crystal is the least salty of salts. If you use others, your dish may be too salty. See this interview with Samin Nosrat.

Wines we like with this chicken dish