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help - is it worth trying to roast a zuni chicken with 4-5 hours of seasoning time?

i've made the zuni chicken before, and had vaguely planned to serve it to friends tomorrow - but i was feeling sick today and didn't make it to the grocery store. if i get a chicken tomorrow morning, will it be worth trying to zuni it? sigh. i am thinking i probably just have to do something else, but was wondering if anyone has tried salting it for such a short time... thank you!

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  1. i have and it still turned out pretty good. the dryness of the skin is the most important factor, so i made sure to pat the chicken very well. i also stored it outside so the breeze would dry out the chicken quicker (only on a cold day of course). you could probably do this same thing with a fan.

    1. hmm - i'll try that! unfortunately i live in manhattan and have no outdoor space... and i don't have a fan... but i'll work something out.

      1. You can roast a perfect chicken without the Zuni ritual. I do all the time.
        The Zuni method really depends on high heat roasting more than anything else to crisp the skin so stick with that. I've done it with turkeys, and although it makes a major mess of my oven, it turns out a perfect bird in a lot less time. I don't brine or salt for days.
        I rub the chicken all over with a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper, puréed garlic and thyme. Under the skin, up as far as I can get it into the area of the thighs and definitely over the breast meat. I use my cast iron skillet and sometimes place the chicken on a bed of veggies which give a great flavor to the drippings. I don't even bother to flip the bird, so to speak.
        If your chicken doesn't have a few ounces of skin perfectly crisped to match what you did the last time, it really won't matter. It will still be a delicious home-roasted chicken, your house will smell wonderful, and everything will work out fine.
        A simple roasted chicken is probably as easy a meal as anything you could do since you haven't been feeling up to par. Zuni, Schmuni. Relax.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          I agree, MakingSense. My experience with Zuni is that Judy can make it seem that SO MUCH DEPENDS on whatever cooking process she employs, but well, for those of us with a life outside of the kitchen it simply isn't possible to prep that way.

          Like MakingSense, I use a hot cast-iron skillet, and I like to include fresh rosemary and thyme as well as garlic (never tried pureed, bur sure, why not?), etc.

          1. re: 280 Ninth

            Good point. Sombody pointed out elsewhere on CH, that the author also omits the "minor" detail of the wood-fired oven at the Zuni Café, which makes more than a minor difference in the roast chicken.
            I figure I have to be adaptable since I don't always have the same amount of time or maybe I'm cooking in a strange oven - like in a vacation condo.
            The Spirit of Zuni is the important thing.

            1. re: MakingSense

              actually in the intro to the chicken recipe, she does mention the oven (i think she calls it brick), but says that this is not the most important aspect and that she has roasted a ton of chickens in an old O'keefe and Merritt stove back in the day

        2. It will be fine, although it won't be quite as flavorful as if you had pre-seasoned 1-2 days in advance. Using the high heat method and pairing w/ the bread salad, it will still be very tasty and impress your guests.

          1. thanks for the tips, guys! i'll give it a go and let you know how it went. i had prepared a zuni chicken with proper salting time before, so i'll be able to compare results.

            1. The two-day salting is effectively a dry-brining. You could achieve the same result with a shorter time wet-brining. Or buying a kosher chicken. Or not brining at all. Just season well and rub all over with olive oil before roasting.
              I'm sure the Zuni Cult will disagree.
              I think you should know alternatives rather than having only one single method of roasting a chicken in your arsenal. It's one of the simplest of home-cooked meals and it seems a pity to have to plan days ahead for something so wonderfully uncomplicated.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                It's not a cult!

                (and OF COURSE there's lots of good ways to arrive at a delicious roast chicken)

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Big difference in wet brining and dry brining, IMO.

                2. I'm sure you've seen this, but I did it last night...it's the best roast chicken I've ever made!


                  1. thanks for your tips, everyone. the chickens turned out lovely (i made 2 in one roasting pan)... i blowdried them with a hairdryer to get them dry and then let them sit salted for a while (only a couple hours). yes, i realize there are other ways to roast, but the zuni method is so quick! and tasty.

                    1. Frankly, you cannot do the Zuni chicken unless you have the oak wood burning brick oven which they operate. This is a significant contributor to the chicken which is rarely mentioned on these boards. Nevertheless, I have made variations of it at home and they turn out just fine: I frequently will roast a whole chicken, then cut it up into pieces after cooking. I'll also toss a salad with some excellent vinegar and add a bit of the juices from the chicken to the salad dressing before tossing. Use some good day old hearty bread to make some excellent croutons. Lay the dressed salad and croutons out on a platter and place the chicken over the top and drizzle any de-fatted cooking juices from the chicken over the entire platter - not exactly a Zuni chicken but a good variation, all the while fully recognizing that the only place one can get a Zuni chicken is at Zuni.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: poulet_roti

                        You are exactly correct about the flavor that oak contributes to chicken. Fantastic. I often use Marcella's recipe for Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Black Pepper grilled over Oak that is the best I have ever had. I use ordinary firewood cut into chunks in my Webre or the logs in another very large grill. The chicken is cut into halves and marinates for only 2 to 3 hours. Incredibly crisp skin, juice running out, fragrant beyond dreams. Ditto adding some of the juices to the salad.
                        Without the oak, Zuni is another method for roasting chicken.

                        1. re: poulet_roti

                          Actually, we do a hybrid bird. About twenty minutes in a stove top smoker and the rest of the time in the oven. Lovely smoky flavor with gorgeous skin.

                        2. hah. I made this last night and it was really yummers! Even though my wife brought home a large 6 lb bird it still worked great. It cooked perfectly in an hour.

                          Her descriptions are so detailed, it's hard to screw it up. Right? But then again, the second time through the recipe it's hard to find exactly what your supposed to do through all the verbiage.