Saturday, April 21, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Greens and Bread Salad

On this very day a year ago, Chris and I walked into San Francisco's Zuni Cafe for dinner hoping to try its burger, tipped as one of the country's best. Sadly, their burger is served only during lunch, no exceptions.

At the time we were disappointed, but it meant that instead we got to enjoy the restaurant's other famous dish: roasted chicken for two with warm bread salad. Turns out, it was an auspicious swap. The dish was very good, so good that I sought out a recipe for it and have made it several times in the last year.

The bread salad is the best part: crusty peasant bread is tossed with olive oil and lightly toasted before soaking up the salad's white wine vinaigrette and mingling with its flavors of garlic, scallions and vinegar-plumped currants. Just writing this makes me want to go make another batch.

Zuni Cafe's dish comes with a whole roasted chicken cut into pieces with lots of crispy, seasoned skin. It's not as special but a lot easier to use boneless-skinless breasts and thighs like I did. To give the chicken a flavor boost, I roasted the chicken pieces on a bed of fresh thyme, along with olive oil and S&P. I also substituted arugula for the red mustard greens.

I'm not the only one singing the praises of this dish. It's been featured on the Today show, where you can find Chef Judy Rodger's original recipe. Smitten Kitchen did a nice take on it a few years ago.

Although I really enjoy this dish and make it every few months, I would still really like to try that burger.

Roasted Chicken with Greens and Bread Salad
Adapted from Zuni Roasted Chicken with Bread Salad by Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe

1 bunch of fresh thyme
1.5 lb. boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1.5 lb. boneless-skinless chicken thighs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoned salt to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Bread salad:
8 oz. crusty Italian or peasant bread
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. currants
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Ground sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
4 scallions, white end chopped with a little bit of the green part
2 tbsp. lightly salted water
4 cups of arugula (or other salad greens)

1. Preheat broiler with oven rack about 5 inches from heating element. Cut crust off bread and discard or use for other purpose. Tear and slice bread into pieces of about 1 to 2 inches. Put bread pieces in a large bowl, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and toss to coat. Spread bread pieces onto a baking sheet and broil to lightly toast, about 1-2 minutes (watch carefully, they will burn easily, especially if you hand tear the bread). When done, allow to cool and then put bread pieces back in the large bowl.

2. Preheat oven to 375 F (it won't take as long since the broiler was just on). In a 9 x 13 baking dish, arrange the fresh thyme sprigs on the bottom of the pan. Pat chicken pieces dry and place on top of the thyme. Brush chicken pieces with olive oil and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Put in oven and roast until internal temperature of chicken is about 165 F (should take about 20-30 minutes).

3. While chicken is roasting, prepare the bread salad. Put the currants in small bowl and add red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. water. Set them aside to plump while you prepare the other ingredients. Whisk 1/4 cup of good quality extra-virgin olive oil with the white wine vinegar and ground sea salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 cup of the dressing to the toasted bread and toss to coat (the remaining tbsp. of dressing will be used later for the greens).

4. Heat a small (8-inch) frying pan over medium-low heat. Toast pine nuts in pan until fragrant and lightly browned (doesn't take long, watch carefully and keep nuts moving to avoid burning). Remove from pan and add to bowl with dressed bread. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to pan. Add sliced garlic and chopped scallions and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add to bread. Drain currants and add to bread.

5. Place bread mixture in a small (8 x 8) baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tbsp. salted water over the bread mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven to warm during the last 7-8 minutes of time when the chicken is roasting.

6. Add arugula to large bowl and toss with remaining white wine vinaigrette. When broad mixture comes out of oven, remove from pan, add to bowl and toss with greens. Serve bread salad under roasted chicken pieces. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a good meal. I like the salad the best. It's hard to believe it's only been a year since we had this at Zuni Cafe. It feels much longer.