Zuni Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
Or as my kids call it, Chicken with the Salty Part
Two very small chickens if you can get them (under three pounds each) or one larger one
Large loaf of good bread, I like Della Fattoria campagne or levain
A couple tablespoons of currants or dried cherries or raisins (I’ve used all three)
Red wine vinegar
A couple tablespoons of pine nuts
Mixed baby salad greens
Earlier in the day rinse the chickens and remove the large fat flap from the opening of the body cavity (and any giblets etc that are in there). Put the chickens into a large bowl and take a handful of kosher salt and sprinkle into the body cavity and rub all around the skin. Cover the bowl and set the chickens in refrigerator. About two hours before you want to eat, remove the chicken from the fridge and let come up to room temp for about thirty minutes.
Cut the crusts from the bread. (Discard the bottom crust, but the top and side crusts make terrific crackers for cheese.) Cut the bread into large chunks and rub with olive oil. Put the chunks of bread under the broiler and brown, flipping to get all sides. Be careful not to let the bread char too much. When they are browned, remove from the oven and let cool.
Preheat the oven or a gas grill until very hot (500 degrees). Dry the chickens with paper towels. Heat two oven proof skillets on the stove on high (or in the gas grill or oven) until hot, then at the chickens, breast side up. The pan should sizzle. Put the pans into the oven or the on the grill with the lid down. They should take about an hour to cook.
While the chicken is cooking, tear the chunks of bread into bite sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together about 1/4 cup of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss this vinaigrette with the torn bread. Place the currants or cherries or raisins in a small dish and cover with red wine vinegar and set aside. Place the pine nuts into a small oven proof skillet and pop into the oven for a few minutes to toast. Remove from the oven and add the pine nuts to the bowl with the bread. Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the skillet you had the pine in and put over medium low heat. Add the shallots and stir to sauté without browning. When soft, scrape the shallots into the bread mixture. Drain the currants and add to the bowl with the bread. Toss everything to combine, then pile into a casserole dish and tent the top with foil. When the chickens are almost done, place the bread salad into the oven for about 8 minutes.
Remove the bread salad and chicken from the oven (grill) when the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees on a thermometer inserted into the thigh).
Put the bread salad into a large salad bowl and toss with the salad greens. Remove the chickens from the pans and deglaze the pans on the stove top with a little bit of vinegar, then sprinkle the bread salad with these pan drippings to taste. Season the salad with salt and pepper (taste first as it may already have plenty of salt). Carve the chicken and serve it with the salad.