Home Cooking 15

Zuni chicken virgin- - -no longer!

JeffW | Jan 28, 2006 12:07 AM

Speechless in Sherman Oaks.
This recipe has been talked about, written about and praised for longer than I can say. I've seen the recipe posted here, but it's also been written in various cookbooks. It was Chowhounds that sealed the deal because of all the hooplah, but I've also had a copy of "Best Recipes of 1999" which also has this recipe. O.K., call me a late bloomer, as it has taken me 7 years to give it a try!
While not a purist (because I did not make the accompanied bread salad), tonight I finally gave this bird it's 15 minutes of fame at Camp Jeff and Owen. I've roasted many a chicken, and I've always enjoyed the simplicity and satisfaction from this type of dinner. I've stuffed them, brined them, rotisseried them, etc. etc. Zuni chicken is hands down the winner, and every rave review (greetings Carb Lover) has been dead on accurate. My only change from the original recipe may have been the salting technique. For an approximately 3 pound bird, the recipe called for 2 1/2 tsps. of salt as the prominent seasoning rub. This sounded like overkill to me, so I attempted to transport my energy into the soul of Judy Rodgers, who created the recipe. I tried to imagine the type of salt she would use, and while I did end up using the full 2 1/2 tsps.of salt, I ended up using Kosher salt, which can be as much as 50% of the volume of table salt, and I definitely feel that Kosher salt was the way to go. I can't think of enough superlatives regarding tonights Zuni chicken. The skin was crackling crisp, and all of the meat was moist. The concept of making this chicken is to stuff herbs and garlic under the skin of the breast and thigh area. The chicken is then salted/peppered, and left in the fridge for 1 to 2 days- - -uncovered! The stint in the fridge is for the purpose of drying the skin (which assures crisp skin when roasting), and I'm guessing that a type of "dry" brining occurred as well. When ready to cook, the bird is dropped back side down into a very hot pan on your cooktop until you hear a sizzle, which is fairly immediate. Then all is popped into a 500 degree oven. The chicken roasts for an hour, with a couple of turns. I used a cast iron skillet for the chicken, and my oven does do a great job with maintaining very high temperatures. If I had to guess which factor made the chicken such a success, I would guess that an accurate oven is paramount. Needless to say tonights dinner was just wonderful, and spousal units comments were the following:
#1 What took you so long to make this?
#2 Look at me, I'm actually eating the skin!

Lots of smoke had me engaging our hood during the cooking, and for the couple of times that I had to pull the skillet out of the oven for turning, there was a goodly amount of spitting fat/juices. Was it worth it??? HELL YES!!!

I could write more, but it's time for me to watch the rest of my taped American Idol, and dig into dessert.

Cheers all,

Carb Lover, if per chance you have read this post, I want to thank you so much for your tip of freezing dead ripe persimmons to enjoy as a sorbet- - -ummmazing stuff!

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