The Legendary Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken And Bread Salad Recipe! My “52 In 22” Challenge Continues!

Celebrating An Iconic Roast Chicken Recipe!

My “52 In 22” cooking challenge heads to San Francisco to honor the late Chef Judy Rodgers, who created food that utilized local ingredients and flavors.

Rodgers was named the 2004 Outstanding Chef In The United States by the James Beard Foundation. She was beloved in the food community, and I love her cookbook.

I was lucky enough to eat at the restaurant while Chef was still alive. Rodgers died of cancer in 2013, so this recipe pays tribute to her culinary artistry.

This is my second stack of ten cookbooks for this year-long challenge, and for week #13, I wanted to cook from Rodgers’ cookbook, specifically one of her signature dishes.

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is more than 500 pages, packed with recipes across all types of food, from appetizers to soups and salads, side dishes, desserts and of course, the iconic Roast Chicken And Bread Salad!

Let’s start cooking her famous dish!

It Begins With A “Dry Brine”…

Yes, it starts with the Chef’s unique “dry brine”…she explains in the cookbook that as a young Chef in France, she was told to salt a chicken and store it for 24 hours, the exact opposite of training that says “always salt at the last minute so you don’t dry things out!”

In fact, she notes that it’s the opposite: a dry brine will help the chicken maintain juiciness when cooking!

So, brine your bird the night before if you have time!

Now, Time To Make A Bread Salad!

As the chicken dry brines, here are the ingredients for a bread salad: a tablespoon of dry currents with a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a hint of warm water…

2 tablespoons of pine nuts, and as much shaved garlic and Shallots as you can handle – and I can handle a lot – and your “mise en place” is just about done…

Well, until it was time to utilize a loaf of bread…here’s why it was so fascinating to me:

I followed orders dutifully, adding some oil oil to the bread cubes, mixing them up a bit and putting them into the oven to toast – as I expected, they came out a bit toasty like the crust had been, but in a deliciously “random” way:

Next up, saute the shaved garlic and shallot for several minutes before tossing in the currents and pine nuts…fold it all together and then pour it over the bread…

Mix the ingredients well to coat everything nicely. You can set aside your bread salad at this point. Now, what about that chicken? Well, after letting it “dry brine” overnight, I pulled it out of the refrigerator, because it was time to stuff it with some sage:

Do you notice how dry the legs and cavity look? It was clear to me that the “dry brine” caused that – just one of the unique aspects of this dish.

Now, get ready for my “brain freeze”:

Here’s my chicken – where are the herbs?


You see, I forgot to get a photo of the sage stuffed under the skin – but it’s there! By the way, take a moment and pre-heat your oven to 475.

Take a frying pan that can go into your oven, put a tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium heat, then put your chicken in – it should sizzle!

After letting it do so for a minute, put the entire pan in the oven to roast for a half hour, then turn it over for a half hour so that both sides are nicely roasted.

The pan-seared and roasted Chicken will look like this when done:

Here’s a short video showing the beautiful bird coming out of the oven:

After removing the chicken, take the drippings from the pan and the chicken – which is surprisingly moist – and reduce it in a small pan…

Dress Your Salad!

Now that the chicken is out of the oven, one last thing to do with the bread salad: add 1-1/2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar and 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix it into the bread salad.

Tear pieces of butter lettuce and fold into the mix.

As for your bird: cut your chicken into pieces like this – I cut the breast off the bone, but keep the legs attached in the biggest piece possible:

You can actually see the sage underneath the skin in these shots:

So here are all the components of the dish: the chopped chicken and the bread salad – and now is the time to drizzle some of that reduced chicken gravy over both, making sure to hit some of the bread in the salad as well!

I put the bread salad underneath a few chunks of the chicken, drizzled a bit more gravy on both, and the dish was ready to serve:

Hey, do you notice something to the far right on the plate? Well, we had our good friend Betsy over for dinner, so I made her a classic Chez L’Ami Louis Potato Cake as well!

The chicken was incredibly moist and flavorful, helped of course by the drippings – and the bread salad has great flavor and a unique texture thanks to the chunks of bread!

Alex shared this on Instagram:

While a somewhat straightforward dish, the combination is great and the Zuni Cafe version served there is incredibly memorable, so I was very happy with how this turned out….this was week #13 of my “52 In 22” cooking challenge…among the previous twelve was this incredible meatball:

Another iconic restaurant features a meatball that is almost creamy in its delicious texture – you can see why by clicking here:

Part of this year-long challenge is to take me out of my “food comfort zone” – like this:

I don’t cook with Eggplant – well, until now – because I took on my nemesis!

Here’s who won:

Probably the most intensive cooking challenge was this pie:

It called for more precision than I usually have when cooking.

Click here to see what I made, because this isn’t a normal pie:

If you enjoy these posts, why not subscribe and never miss out? It’s easy, and there are NO ads of any kind, just stuff I like – from music to movies, books, travel, food and more…click on the main page and “follow” me on the upper right…

As for my “52 Cookbooks 52 Recipes” challenge, I am sharing and storing all of these recipes on my food website “Bite! Eat! Repeat!” – it’s your site for all things food – if you like what you see, please click on my link and follow this blog as well!

Let me know what you think of my “52 In 22” challenge!

If you like the story, share it with friends on social media! Thanks!

Categories: Art, cookbooks, Food, food blog, Food Review, Recipes, Restaurants

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12 replies

  1. I’m always looking for new chicken recipes. This one looks great! Thanks for sharing!


  2. thanks for another wonderful cooking along with John experience, this looks and sounds wonderful. great tip about the dry brine. keep these recipes coming!


  3. Thanks for always inviting us into your kitchen, John. It’s fun to see someone energized about their passions, and cooking is that for you.


  4. Well done, John. That’s another juicy-looking triumph! I don’t have a very deep main oven, so none of my pans with handles will fit in it. I might have to buy one of those with ‘detachable’ handles.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Did the chicken taste salty or did you rinse the salt off before cooking? I will be making that bread salad as it looks so good. I make one similar called Panzanella but it doesn´t have currents in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This looks so delicious! Thanks for sharing with us. BTW, I like ve cooking with eggplants, and I love eating it even more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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