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Zuni-ish Roast Chicken

When Jeff and I first met in 1999, I roasted a chicken every day for 30 days in a row to master the art of French roast chicken. The iconic Zuni Café in San Francisco, owned by long-time friend David Groff, is well known for its equally iconic roast chicken.  

There are two parts to this recipe, the roast chicken and the Panzanella-style salad.

David was kind enough to walk me through the steps to make this next-to-perfect dish.  This chicken is salted generously and early, the earlier the better. You’re welcome.

The sky’s the limit with this. Fitting for June, Pride, and rainbows, this pairs with rosé, Chardonnay, or any of our red wines.

Ingredients

Equipment

Large cast iron skillet
9 x 13” baking dish
Paper towels

Ingredients for the Roast Chicken

1 3 ½ to 4-pound whole chicken
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Panzanella-style salad (recipe follows)

Ingredients for the Bread Salad

1 tablespoon dried currants
1 tablespoon warm red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine or Champagne vinegar
½ cup olive oil, plus two tablespoons for bread, and a tablespoon for garlic and scallions
Salt
Pepper
½ loaf of stale Italian or French bread
¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
5 ounces arugula

How To Make

1
Directions for the chicken. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, gently and carefully separate the skin from the breast and thighs, making pockets to fill with the chopped thyme and minced garlic. Evenly distribute the thyme and garlic under the skin. Salt and pepper the exterior of the chicken. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
2
Place cast iron skillet in oven and preheat to 500ºF. When heated, remove skillet, add the tablespoon of olive oil in the center, and place the chicken breast-side up. Return to oven, reduce heat to 450ºF, and roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken breast-side down and roast for an additional 15 minutes. Again, turn chicken breast side up, being careful not to break the skin, and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until the thigh temperature is 160ºF.
3
Set aside to rest for 20 minutes while you prepare the bread and arugula salad.
4
Directions for Bread Salad. Preheat oven to 450º. In a small bowl, macerate the dried currants with the warmed red wine vinegar for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.
5
In a small bowl combine white wine vinegar, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
6
Tear the bread into large pieces, coat with two tablespoons of olive oil, and bake for eight to ten minutes until golden. Let cool, then tear into bite-size pieces. Place bread into a bowl and mix with half of the vinegar and oil mixture and currants.
7
In a small saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic. Cook gently till softened, about three minutes. Add to bread mixture.
8
Transfer the bread mixture to the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional five minutes.
9
Lightly dress the arugula, toss with the warm bread salad, and serve with the carved roasted chicken.