I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

Chicken à la Zuni

Just because you've had chicken before does not mean that a chicken is just a chicken

I’m not one for chicken. I like to think my tastes have matured. For one, I’m horrified by the treatment of chicken. They are often abused, tarted up, and treated like cheap meat. Even dressed (and over dressed) chicken can be bland.

But I’ve also heard that great chefs show off by taking something common-place and elemental, and raising it to the sublime through superior technique and care. Roast chicken, delicious when done well and utterly meh when done poorly, is a favourite. I’d often despaired at this until Bluebarry brought home the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant.

Little did I realize that the impossibly glossy crisp skin we see in food advertisements can be made at home easily and without the help of a food stylist. It’s delicious. A small chicken, a fryer, is the most reliable. It needs to be dried in a refrigerator with a good sprinkling of salt for 1-3 days, and then cooked in a hot pan in a hot oven. It’s counter-inuitive, but worked brilliantly three times in a row, each time giving us impossibly moist, tender meat.

We served a delicious bread salad alongside, which we augmented with lots of pine nuts and barberries. You can read the original recipe here [NSFW if you don’t want your colleagues to think you’re watching the Today Show], but the book is so good I’d recommend buying it.

We finished the meal with cinnamon chocolate cupcakes with mascarpone icing. They were slightly medicinal tasting, but not quite ripe for ridicule. Thus they were left out of the blog.

Hint: In order for the skin to be crisp and not stick to the pan, the chicken must be impeccably dried and the pan must be very hot.

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