One of the best meals of my life was at the Zuni Café in San Francisco. Seriously. It’s one of those nights that will stay with me the rest of my life. Mr. Gonzo and I stole away for a mini-vacay in San Francisco last July. Imagine it: 24 foot-loose-and-fancy-free hours while Gigi had the time of her life with her cousins. Win win!
This was the view from our table that night at Zuni:
I know. Amazing, right?
And this was THE meal, the one I’ll always remember. Salty, succulent chicken that fell away from the bone with a mere tug of my fork, crisp yet just-soggy-enough bread dressed with the juices of the chicken, all atop a bed of fresh spring greens. So the second I got home I did what any cookbook-obsessed food blogger would do: I ordered the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I Googled “Zuni Café Roast Chicken.” I read and reread the five-page recipe until I convinced myself I’d need a degree in program management to get the timing right. Then I procrastinated further because I was simply too lazy to go to the farmer’s market to fetch a small chicken, which is the type of bird called for in the recipe. My Trader Joe’s five-pound bird languished sadly in the fridge until I’d yield, yet again, to the temptation of (the surprisingly easy) Engagement Roast Chicken recipe made famous by Glamour Magazine and Ina Garten.
Then, a few weeks ago, lolling about while recovering from eye surgery, I watched Michael Symon make this recipe. Maybe it was the pain killers, maybe it was his no-nonsense approach to cooking, but I became convinced that I, too, could salt a chicken 24 hours ahead of time without the world coming to an end. And so I instantly thought of the Zuni Café chicken, and how finally, finally I would attempt to recreate that July night in the comfort of my home. While wearing yoga pants.
Yet there was just one thing stopping me: gluten. More specifically, the gluten in the bread salad portion of “Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad.” And while I could, conceivably, make a loaf of gluten-free bread to use for the salad, I’m not that far along in my GF baking, and since I’d already procrastinated long enough, I figured I needed to work out another solution.
So here it is: Zuni Roast Chicken with Breakfast Potato Salad.
(And if you’d like to take a stab at the original recipe, check out Deb at Smitten Kitchen’s version.)
- One whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
- 4-5 springs of fresh Rosemary, Sage or Thyme
- 4 teaspoons sea salt (Kosher is fine, too)
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease or melted butter (optional)
- 4-5 red potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 springs fresh Rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 package Trader Joe’s bagged Herb Salad Mix (or similar)
- Remove the gizzards and what-not from inside the chicken. Rinse the bird, inside and out, with cold water. Using paper towels, dry the chicken, including the inner cavity (this will help the chicken brown better).
- Gently ease the skin apart from the breast on each side and slide the Rosemary into the openings. Pat the chicken all over with the salt.
- Tie the chicken’s legs together and tuck each wing under the body.
- Place the chicken into a dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes in advance.
- Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the center of the oven, then set the oven to preheat at 475°.
- Dry the chicken again with paper towels. Smear the chicken with the bacon grease or melted butter, if using.
- When the oven is ready, carefully remove the skillet. Transfer the chicken, breast side up, to the skillet.
- Roast for 30 minutes, remove from oven and flip the bird over.
- Roast for 10-20 minutes more, remove from oven, and flip the bird over again.
- Roast for a final 10-15 minutes, breast side up, until the chicken reaches 160° or the juices run clear. Set aside and let rest while you finalize the breakfast potato salad.
- While the chicken roasts, prepare the breakfast potatoes.
- Warm the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes in a single layer and sprinkle with the salt; this ensures an even crust. Let the potatoes sit for 8-10 minutes, or until a crust begins to form. Don’t let your husband stir the potatoes.
- Once the potatoes have formed a crust, turn them over to allow the other side to crisp, another 6-8 minutes. Don’t stir until the crust forms.
- Once the potatoes are browned on both sides, begin to stir and flip to ensure even cooking, another 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes can be pierced with a knife.
- Add the butter, chopped garlic and chopped Rosemary to the pan, stir and once the butter has melted, remove from heat.
- In a clean glass jar with a lid, combine mustard, vinegar and salt. Secure the lid and shake until all ingredients are combined.
- Pour in the olive oil, secure the lid and shake again. Taste, using a fresh salad leaf, and adjust the seasonings as needed: if it tastes bland, add salt; too oily, add vinegar; too sharp, add a teaspoon of oil: play around until you find a taste you like.
- Carve the chicken into pieces, reserving the juices for another use.
- In a large bowl, combine the herb salad mix and ¼ cup of the Champagne vinaigrette (more to taste). Pour the breakfast potatoes into the bowl and gently stir to combine.
- Layer the breakfast potato salad on a large platter, then place the chicken on top of the salad.
- Serve immediately.
For more great gluten-free ideas, check out Allergy-Free Wednesday at The Tasty Alternative.