Chicken. Roasted.

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We are often out and about on the weekends. You know, living our wild and crazy child-less lives (if you click that link, the article is really great. just sayin’). Or maybe just playing board games at someone’s house, if you really want to know. We like to think we’re simple and low-key, but our budget tells us we spend a shit-ton of $$ on food and alcohol. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just the fact of the matter at hand. Anybody singing a rap song after reading that sentence? nevermind.

A few months ago, I realized I’d made reservations for us to eat at Zuni Cafe. It’s one of those places that, if you want to eat at a reasonable time on a Saturday  night, requires reservations a bit in advance. So I picked a rando Saturday, and before I knew it, it was time to go. If you know anything about popular dining spots in SF, you for sure know that Zuni is an institution, maybe for their Bloody Marys (which I hear are magnificent), but probably for their roasted chicken.

So we went, and Chris was given the freedom to choose appetizers, wine, and dessert for us, but I said we HAD to share the chicken. He happens to like roasted chicken, so I was in luck. In my opinion, the chicken was everything it was cracked up to be – tender, juicy, nestled perfectly in a simply dressed salad, complete with haphazardly-torn croutons that were perfect for dipping in to soak up the chicken juice-laced dressing. J’adore.

Coincidentally enough, Food & Wine had recently published a version of said chicken in a roasted chicken feature they did recently and I just never got it together to start the recipe the night before, and I didn’t dare skip that part. So finally, a few weekends ago, I picked up a chicken on way home on Friday. On Saturday, after a good 20 minutes of dealing with a crazy city smoke detector (I hate them), we were well on our way to a magical dinner.

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We were not disappointed. As if I needed further confirmation of this chicken being amazing, I kept saying, amidst a mouth-full of crusty bread and chicken, arugula lodging itself in my teeth, “damn, this is good. isn’t it? isn’t it?”. Fortunately, Chris talks with his mouth full too, and he agreed until I finally shut up.

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And then we did it all over again the next day, as a roasted chicken salad also makes a great picnic lunch. Just so you know.

Zuni Cafe’s ‘Roasted Chicken with Warm Bread Salad’
adapted from Food & Wine, March 2013; serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes (+24 hours seasoning for chicken)

ingredients
roasted chicken
One free-range, organic chicken
4 thyme sprigs
4 small garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
2 t fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

bread salad
1 T dried currants
1 T warm water
1 t red wine vinegar
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 c plus 2 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound stale Italian-style bread, cut into large chunks
1 T pine nuts
4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 c lightly packed small arugula leaves, or other greens (I used arugula, but when I had the chicken at Zuni they used a mix. i like it either way)

instructions
Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff the thyme and garlic under the skin and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 (and hope your smoke detector doesn’t go nuts like mine…). Preheat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side down and roast for about 15 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a board and let rest for 10 minutes; carve and hang on to those chicken juices! (You can also use another oven-safe container, but you might have to turn the heat down and roast longer.)

Meanwhile, prepare the bread salad ingredients.

In a small-ish bowl, soak the currants in the water and red wine vinegar until plumped, 10 minutes. Drain and put into a large bowl for mixing the salad.

While currants are plumping up, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Bake for about 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool, then tear the bread into bite-size pieces and add to the large bowl.

In the now-empty small bowl, combine the white white vinegar with the 1/2 cup of olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper. Add three-quarters of the dressing to the cooled bread and currants and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet for about 2 minutes. Add to large bowl.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the scallions and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 2 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Add the currants, bread, pine nuts and the remaining vinaigrette and toss.

Spoon the bread salad into a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until heated through. Uncover and bake for a few minutes longer to dry out the top and brown the bottom. Transfer the bread salad to a platter and toss with arugula.

Skim the fat from the juices in the skillet. Place chicken pieces atop bread salad and drizzle any juices atop. EN-JOY!

Pork Sandwich.

pork sandwich

Anybody out there watch the Walking Dead? Well, we are pretty hooked on the show, honest to goodness. Chris has read the comics since Issue 1, so he was stoked when they announced a TV adaptation. Me? I tend to watch the zombie movies/shows/etc just to make him happy. Me not whining seems to make him not whine, which in general is a pretty good thing. So when I can, I just keep my mouth shut.

If you know me, you might have chuckled a bit there. I am rarely silent.

pork!

Anyhow, maybe you can sense where I’m going here. I decided to watch the show with him, way back when. One episode in, and I was hooked. So dang glad I kept my mouth shut that time for a change. So somehow, we roped a few friends into coming over and watching some episodes with us. We called it a “shredded meat party”. Ha!! They got hooked too. And we got to eat a lot of pulled pork.

The second half of season 3 started a few weeks ago, and we set up the same system. Another party of shredded meat. We are such cheeseheads. But this time, the crazy sickness took a ton of our group, and by mid-afternoon it was determined that it would be the two of us, the show, and a bowl o’ pork. We even grabbed some “SF Beer Week” beverages while we waited.

As it turned out, we managed to eat this dish that week and into the following week. I froze a little and ate that a week or so later. It was interesting: I was glad to have it between just the two of us, but at the same time, man, this was an amazing dish. It would have been a great one to share. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll make it again. Zombie or no zombie.

aleppo pepper pork sandwich

Aleppo Pepper Pork & Fennel Sandwiches
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; serves 6

time commitment: 3 1/2 hours the day of (30 minutes active), plus overnight marinating

printable version

ingredients

Pork

3 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder

1 T fine sea salt

3 T minced garlic

1/4 c plus 1 T Aleppo pepper

1/4 c white wine vinegar

sandwiches

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

3 T fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced

4 cups (packed) arugula

6 toasted rolls, split, for serving

instructions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Shred the meat into large pieces and toss with the pan juices and reserved juices. Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.