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Zuni Cafe Cookbook: Seafood/ Poultry

January 2007 Cookbook of the Month: the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers and Gerald Asher. Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the sections on seafood and on poultry here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating.

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  1. It's appropriate, I think, that the first post on this thread should be a paean of praise to the Zuni roast chicken with bread salad recipe. If you don't make anything else from the book, try this; it's worth the price of the book all on its own.

    13 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      Agreed -- the zuni chicken with bread salad is legendary for a reason. I did two birds side by side last year, because I was serving a crowd, and it was definitely one of the best things I made in 2006. Once I get over the past few week's indulgences I'll do it again.

      1. re: pikawicca

        Agreed. This recipe changed the way I made roast chicken. I am usually too lazy to make the bread salad. This is my new way of roasting chicken! The salting works a miracle.

        1. re: pikawicca

          I have made this dish more in the past two years than any other. I stopped flipping the chicken mid-roast after a number of nasty burns on my arms with very little negative effect.
          I'm lucky to have access to amazing local poultry, but the salting does make a good thing even better. That preparation has become standard in our kitchen even without the bread salad.

          1. re: wandasue

            Thanks for your tip on not flipping; I'll have to try that sometime and see if it makes much difference. In all the times I've made the chicken, I've been able to avoid hot oil jumping on my skin by wearing elbow-length oven mitts. I've also mastered quick flipping w/ tongs and a metal spatula.

            In fact, I just made the chicken and bread salad (this time w/ mizzuna greens) for guests the other night and it was very good. I kept the oven temp. at 450F instead of 475F and didn't have any problem w/ smoking; however, the skin was noticeably less crispy and the chicken seemed to render less fat. Still tasty though!

            Photo:
            http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

            1. re: wandasue

              I made the recipe last week. We all loved it and I had followed every step just so, but the skin stuck to the pan when I flipped it back. A little sad, so I think next time I won't bother. Anyone have any further thoughts on the need to flip or not flip?

              1. re: waver

                I always use a small grate under the chicken - one with small legs to lift it up a bit. You could spray it with non-stick coating to keep it from sticking.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Good plan. I'll keep my eyes out for one of those. Thanks.

            2. re: pikawicca

              So three years later, I just made my first Zuni roast chicken with bread salad recipe. You are correct, pika; worth the price of the book. The breast meat on mine was slight overdone. I'm sure it's because I raised the temp to almost 500 cause I didn't think it was browning correctly. Next time I'll leave it alone and know it will brown once I turn it over. And the bread salad is to die for, isn't it? I forgot to get the called for greens and used baby spinach instead. No problem but I would have preferred arugula. I have enough leftover (there were just two of us) that I'm going to reheat tonight with some pork chops. There is a reason some things are classics. SO good.

              Edit: I forgot to add that the hard part was finding a small(er) chicken. I looked all over Tahoe and Reno and the smallest I found was at WF and it was still 3.5#. Everything else was over 5# but that's a different thread.

              1. re: c oliver

                So was there a lot of smoke?

                Are you ready to try it on a gas grill outside?

                One of jfood's favorite recipes and still the topic of a few stories from one of the little jfoods on how dad almost smoked her out of the house.

                1. re: jfood

                  I remembered y'all mentioning the smoke but it was no worse than some other things I've done. But the oven had been recently cleaned. And Bob opened the window that's directly across from the stove.

                  Do you do it on the grill? If so, do you put it in the pan and then THAT goes on the grill rather than putting the bird directly on it. Doesn't sound like a bad idea since we're talking more heat than I normally use in my oven.

                  Had some soft tacos with leftover chicken, rice, beans etc. for lunch today and still have loads left.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    It's a combo plan...

                    1 - use a vertical roaster
                    2 - when you light the grill only have the two outside burners on and the middle one off
                    3 - place the boyd over the "off" burner, close it for 25 minutes or so.

                    if you do not follow steps 2 & 3 properly, call for pizza delivery. (yes jfood has the black bird and delivery receipt to proveit).

                    1. re: jfood

                      I have a vertical roaster and a three burner grill so looking good so far. Do you put the vertical roaster directly on the grill or in a pan?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        jfood has gone the no-pan route. He has a 3-burner weber genesis and the middle burner is off. The thermometer on the cover indicates the inside temp is >500 degrees.

                        The key is to NOT have the middle burner on from the word go. Otherwise, bye bye birdie.

            3. I love the bread salad, it's a wonderful dish all on its own. I'm not a fan of the chicken which I've made twice and found dry. I usually make a roast chicken using Cook's Illustrated's method (butterfly, roast flat over broiler pan) and combine this with the bread salad to get the best of both dishes.

              1. I haven't made the chicken and bread salad recently, but here's a picture from my first time when CarbLover jump-started my interest in Zuni. I love this dish.

                http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                13 Replies
                1. re: Rubee

                  Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, p. 342

                  I haven't made this in a while but when Zuni was decided on as COTM, this was one of the first recipes I wanted to make again. I used a 4-1/4 lb chicken, salted for 48 hours, and for the bread salad used champagne vinegar, zante currants, pine nuts, and fresh cilantro instead of the greens.

                  I was reminded again what a fantastic recipe this is - just a great meal, especially with that delicious bread salad. As I was making the bread salad, my husband kept picking at the chicken and I heard "so juicy", "it's perfect" and "this is delicious". I've promised him that I'm going to make this once a month from now on.

                  Recipe link:
                  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4401342

                   
                  1. re: Rubee

                    I've got my chicken brining away for my first try at this chicken tomorrow night. Given the previous reports, I'm very excited (and plan to try to cover my smoke alarm).

                    1. re: Rubee

                      My turn on the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, (p. 342)

                      Brined the chicken on Tuesday morning, used thyme springs (thought about the rosemary she also suggests; maybe next time). Her instructions are long, but straightforward and very clear (I was daunted by a 3 page recipe - I shouldn't have been). This was a very good roast chicken. Mine was slightly dry in the breast. I'd gotten a bird on the larger side but still within her given recommendations, and so I used the longer cooking times she gave. The bread salad was killer. My only problem, but kind of a big one: I woke up in the middle of the night completely parched. I hadn't noticed while eating that anything was especially salty (but I never picked up the salt shaker, kind of rare with a roast chicken), but it really did dry me out. Has anyone else had this problem? The chicken itself is so simple that I'll try it again soon without the bread salad, and try a little less cooking time (and drink tons of water instead of wine with dinner!). Also, I had absolutely no smoking or problems with turning it over.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I revisited the bird as well. I made it for Thanksgiving dinner since I prefer chicken to turkey. And, I love this recipe.

                        I wasn't able to find a smaller chicken this time and had to use a 4.25 lb bird. With the longer cooking time, it was fine, but not as flavorful as a smaller bird. There were no comments of dryer breasts from C and the dark meat was delicious.

                        I haven't had any problems with waking up parched. But, I also drink a lot of water, even when I drink wine.

                        For Boston area residents - I continue to use Clear Flour rustic italian bread for the bread salad. However, I think the loaves are now smaller. Typically, I've used 2 loaves. This time, I noticed that there was less bread for the salad then there had been in the past.

                      2. re: Rubee

                        My turn ( quite late in the game) on the roast chicken. I had thought my oven was fairly clean, but the copious smoke, and subsequent sounding of both smoke detectors in my apt. have proven that it was not as clean as I thought! I had salted a 4 lb. Chix ( slightly larger than what is recommended) for 48 hrs. Roasted in a 450 oven, turning as advised. I used a cast iron skillet, which reached near nuclear meltdown temperatures. I managed to burn my pinkie finger right thru the oven mitt! Nevertheless, the outcome was outstanding. Even the breast meat was succulent and juicy, the skin crispy , flavourful and delicious. Bread salad was very good. I served my favorite arugula/fig and mustard vinaigrette salad on the side for my gluten intolerant guests. This is a definite repeat- so long as I temporarily disconnect the smoke
                        detectors. :-)

                        1. re: Blythe spirit

                          I, too, do my Zuni chicken in a cast iron skillet in an apartment and I've discovered that even if my oven isn't at it's pristine best (Ha! Who'm I kidding! It practically never is.), I can cut down significantly on the amount of smoke by dumping the accumulated fat each time I turn the chicken. It's a bit messy, since I have to remove the chicken from the pan each time, but it works. At least for me. And well worth the effort. Great chicken, isn't it?

                          1. re: JoanN

                            JoanN, I was very impressed by the flavor and texture. And the advice to dump the fat during the turning process is great - I don't know why I didn't think to do that.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              Alternately, you can slice up some potato/onions to cook/melt in all that delicious salty fat.

                              1. re: rose water

                                I tried that once and they burned. Do you do your chicken in a cast-iron skillet?

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  I do. It's been a while since I made it last, so I don't remember the exact mechanics. I think I add stuff on the second flip.

                            2. re: Blythe spirit

                              You know, after the first couple of times I stopped flipping and the chicken still comes out great. I hate wrestling with the super-hot pan, sputtering fat, not to mention the bird itself, so I just let it alone. I think it's the salting in advance and high heat that really makes the bird. That doesn't address the smoking issue, but I think you could periodically remove the fat with a turkey baster even if you don't flip the chicken. I don't actually own a turkey baster so I've never tried this but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

                              1. re: Westminstress

                                i've been waiting for chicken to go on sale to try it out. the smallest available chicken was 4.8 lbs. when should i start the salting? i'm cooking it friday night.

                                1. re: arjunsr

                                  Salt the chicken anywhere from 1 to 3 days ahead of time. Here's the recipe:

                                  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/4401342...

                        2. Monkfish braised with white beans, fennel & tomato p.326
                          I've been making a variation of this (no beans or tomato or saffron)
                          basically the onions and fennel are cooked a bit, and used as a bed for fish
                          monk fish, or cod or any other firm thick white fish

                          also I don't sear the fish, I just bake it in a hot oven rather quickly on the bed of veg and wine. This is one of those instances where reading the recipe was a jumping off inspiration for me, not an exact replica of the Zuni dish.

                          The onion/fennel bed gets deliciously carmelized.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: pitu

                            MOnkfish braised with white beans, fennel and tomato P. 326

                            I would have to say my attempts to make this dish were probably a major failure, and yet, I still thought this dish was delicious. The reason for my classification of my attempt as a failure will become clear soon.

                            I decided to make this dish after I came home with some cod fillets. Ironically, at the fish shop, I looked at some monkfish and thought, I'd really like to buy this monkfish, but what would I make with it? Ah well, next time. So Strike one has to be the choice of thin cod fillets instead of chunks of monkfish.

                            I sauteed the fennel in olive oil, then added the onions as directed. Added and boiled white wine, then the tomatoes, saffron, garlic, chili pepper flakes (instead of a dried chili). I skipped the ouzo, none in the house. I then used some of my Zuni chicken stock. Instead of white beans, I decided to use boiled sliced potatoes, which I really liked, but I think I added too many potatoes. The starch from the potatoes probably overly thickened the sauce, and perhaps diluted some of the flavours. (Strike 2).

                            I did not pre-salt the fish (Strike 3), I was not that organized for time. When I pan-fried the fish, it did not brown very well, and because the fillets were thin, they started falling apart very quickly. I reduced the cooking time because I did not want to overcook the fish. I then added the fish to the sauce and simmered as instructed. Then I transferred everything to an oven-safe dish and broiled it. I did not bother serving the aioli.

                            The flavours of this dish are excellent! It was very delicious. I love the subtle anise notes that you get with cooked fennel. But I was disappointed that I was unable to get the fish to brown, and I was also disappointed that the fish flaked into pieces rather than staying in a nice large piece. I have determined I am not the best cooker of fish. I was happy not to over cook the fish.

                            I served this dish with a white Burgundy, Domaine de la Cadette "La Chatelaine" Bourgogne Vezelay 2006. I used some of this wine to cook the sauce. This wine has the roundness of a white burgundy, with lovely mineral notes and a bright acidity that match well with this dish and this sauce. Perfect match! I do love white Burgundy.

                             
                            1. re: moh

                              moh: I used a couple of ling cod fillets to make a Goin recipe the other night that called for halibut. My fish fell apart, too, but it was quite delicious. Maybe we'll both try our recipes with correct fish in the next month.

                              TIP: I got this from Alice Waters' COTM from last month. She has a tip for browning chicken which worked for chicken and also worked for my cod. It may have been falling apart, but by gum it was browned.

                              You take a frying pan and cover the bottom with foil and then butter or oil it. I was too lazy and cheapskate to use the foil so I just used the bottom of a very clean Le Creuset frying pan. After you put the meat/fish into the frying pan to cook, you place the other frying pan on top of the fish and the weight presses the fish down so that it is evenly in contact with the hot surface. This has worked well for me 3 times now.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                This sounds like a good tip! Do you heat the first frying pan up at all? or just use it cold?

                                1. re: moh

                                  moh: I'm not sure what you mean by "first" frying pan, but I figure you mean the weighting pan. I used it cold. Actually, since it was sitting on the stove, just off the burner, it was probably warm. I think it'd be a good idea to heat it a bit.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    Thank you Oakjoan! I did mean the weighting pan. I shall try this trick next time, looking for that lovely browning.

                              2. re: moh

                                Doesn't sound like a failure at all! May not have been exactly what Goin meant, but still a really nice meal. And it looks good too. I'm thinking of making this with canned beans (in other words, cheating).

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  LulusMon, I was this close to using canned beans! But I was boiling some potatoes up anyways, and I saw the note at the beginning of the recipe. I really like this with potatoes, I love how they take on the flavour of this sauce.

                                2. re: moh

                                  Finally got around to the Monkfish (cod) braised with white beans, fennel and tomato (p. 326) and it was heaven. Whole Foods did not come through with the promised monkfish, but the cod was fine for me - I simply sauted it a bit less than the monkfish would have been, then added it to the pot of veg and simmered for only a minute or two. I used canned beans. I cannot express how wonderful I thought this was - hit lots of my favorite notes - caramelized fennel, anise liquor, fish, beans, garlic and the aioli just made it killer. Using the canned beans made it a relatively simple dish to make too (sorry Bittman). No photo - computer has crashed and I'm using a random one in the house).

                              3. p.334 shrimp cooked in romesco
                                romesco is a chili/nut/tomato concoction, not unlike a mexican mole paste.
                                I followed her romesco recipe exactly, except I didn't have the brand of red wine vinegar she calls for, one fortified with sherry. I also didn't have any sherry. The paprika I had was also unremarkable, probably old. I added an extra ancho chili, cause it seemed to need it.
                                The result: the romesco was not too spectacular - just okay,
                                This dish is all about having the right ingredients in top form.
                                I also found rubbing the skins off toasted hazelnuts to be something I didn't want to do very often (roll eyes here)

                                I had extra of the romesco base left over, froze it, and used it later blended into winter squash soup. THAT was good. I added more garlic and salt, and some buttermilk in one batch. The romesco is thickened with old bread, which is a very good soup thickener too.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: pitu

                                  pitu I made this too but thought that the result was really good. I wonder if the quality of your paprika affected it as the paprika really gives it that extra smoky oomph. The romesco takes a looooong time to make and when I do it again, I'll double the recipe and freeze half.

                                  1. re: pitu

                                    I agree that taking the skins off toasted nuts is a pain -- hazelnuts, blanched almonds, etc. But I found that if I wrap them in a kitchen towel and then rub as a group, the skins come off rather expeditiously, with some attention then paid to individual nuts.

                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                      I do this often enough that I took a very old towel, folded it over, and sewed two sides together (leaving one side open, so that it forms a bag). This prevents the nuts from dropping out of the towel quite so much.

                                    2. re: pitu

                                      I made this for dinner last night -- fabulous. I didn't have the red wine vinegar she called for but I have a very good quality red wine vinegar which I used along with some sherry vinegar. I also didn't fry the bread; instead I just cubed it and tossed it with a lot of olive oil and toasted it under the broiler along with the tomatoes. (Anyone think Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes would work in the recipe?)

                                      I used Spanish smoked paprika and a regular mild dried chile rather than an ancho, which is smoked, to kind of balance out the smokiness. No problems with rubbing the skins off the toasted hazelnuts, but I roasted more than the recipe called for and then rubbed, and the hazelnuts whose skins didn't come off just got left out (and eaten as a cook's treat).

                                      Definitely will make this one again, and with lots of sauce left over I can't wait to play around with it -- in soups, as a pasta sauce thinned with broth, etc.

                                      1. re: pitu

                                        I made this on Friday, and it turned out great. I was trying to make it quickly after I got home from work, so I wasn't able to drain my canned tomatoes very well, so they didn't roast very well. I was also trying to use my toaster oven for some of the browning as I hate to heat up the whole oven for small jobs (it worked well on the hazelnuts, but not on the tomatoes). I like how detailed her instructions are--for instance, you are supposed to fry the bread for 2-3 minutes per side or until it's the color of cornflakes. I wasn't able to get quite to cornflake color in 3 minutes, but thanks to her specifying that, I knew what I was going for. As I was hurrying this recipe along, I didn't soak the romesco for 30 whole minutes (more like 15) but it tasted fabulous anyway. If I were to make this again, I'd do the base romesco in advance, then finish it with the soaking on the night I served it. I happened to have on hand two spanish paprikas, one hot and one sweet, so I used both as directed in the recipe.

                                        When I went to the store, the fish case didn't have any shrimp, so I got the halibut instead. I cooked the halibut in the romesco as she describes for the shrimp, but maybe just a couple of minutes longer until it flaked. The combination of romesco, halibut, and spinach was fabulous, and I'm ashamed to say that we ate the entire recipe's worth of romesco and spinach between two of us! I'm sorry now because I'd love to try it on some winter squash. Maybe next time.