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Zuni chicken question?

I'm making zuni chicken tonight, minus the bread salad... the 3-1/2 pound chicken's been sitting in the fridge for two days with thyme under the skin... Can someone please tell me if this is the right way to roast it tonight?

- preheat square pyrex dish to 450F in the oven.
- put chicken in breast-side-down and roast for thirty minutes.
- turn chicken right-side-up and roast for another fifteen minutes.
- eat.

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  1. According to the cookbook (and I followed these instructions a few weeks ago):

    1. preheat square pyrex dish to 450F in the oven - Yes. However, can a pyrex be heated at that high of a temperature? I'm not trying to be contrary, I honestly don't know.

    2. put chicken in breast-side-down and roast for thirty minutes - No. It should first be breast side up. Also, when you first put the chicken in the pan, there should be a sizzle. When it is in the oven, listen for the sizzle. If you don't hear any, turn the heat up a little until it does sizzle. If there is too much smoke or the skin is burning, turn the heat down a bit.

    3. turn chicken right-side-up and roast for another fifteen minutes. No. Well, you are flipping it but you should be flipping the bird so that the breast is down. Also, after 15 minutes, flip the bird back to breast side up so that hte skin crisps up again. This should be another 5-10 minutes.

    Here is the order of the flips.
    Breast side up (@30 minutes)
    Breast side down (@10-20 minutes)
    Breast side up (@5-10 minutes)
    Total time in oven - @ 45-50 minutes

    Prior to eating, let the bird rest for a few minutes.


    2 Replies
    1. re: beetlebug

      Thanks for the tips... I don't know either! I roast in my pyrex dishes all the time but the hottest I've got them is 400... and I usually heat them up slowly with the item to be cooked in them so it all heats up at the same time. I didn't think that it might not work for this :(

      1. re: Kajikit

        As mentioned below - I use a ceramic dish, and start off roasting the chicken at 550.

    2. I would be wary of putting a cold chicken into a pre-heated pyrex dish. Pyrex can stand to be heated quite high, but it doesn't handle thermal shock very well.

      Do you have another pan you can use?

      1 Reply
      1. I don't have a lot of cookware to choose from. I have a small square bakers secret cake pan, a rectangular ceramic roasting dish (that I usually use for cooking stuff) and the pyrex... Which do you think is safest? (would it help if i take the pyrex out of the fridge now and bring it up to room temperature?)

        (I remember my mother steaming her christmas pudding in a pyrex bowl every year... until one day she put it into the pan and heard a CRACK and it broke cleanly in half! She bought a metal dish after that.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kajikit

          I often use an oval ceramic cazuela to roast a chicken - I think that your ceramic dish would work.

        2. I'd go with the roasting dish as well, and roast as you describe in your initial post (if you flip it too many times it won't do anythin but take more of the delcious skin off each time!) I know that's what the cookbook said but they originally printed this recipe in Parade magazine in 1997 or something like that, and it didn't have all the flipping--and it turns out magnificently.
          Why not bread salad though? It's so easy...That's the best part, with the chicken dripping & vingar & currants & green onions & arugula...those flavors are fantastic with the crsipy roasted chciken, esp. the bit of vinegar. My husband detests all chicken dishes except for this one (with the bread salad).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tabetai yo

            If the cooking vessel is properly heated AND the chicken skin is completely dry, the skin should not stick to the vessel during the flips. I've never encountered skin sticking issues. I also pat down the chicken with numerous paper towels before placing it on the hot cast iron skillet.

            Yum. Roast chicken. That sounds so appealing right now...

          2. The thermal shock issue would be mitigated by putting the pyrex in the cold oven and letting it heat up slowly with the oven.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lebelage

              The problem is though is that you put the cold chicken in the preheated dish.

              1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                Yep. I did this once and was picking pieces of pyrex out of all sorts of kitchen nooks for the next year and a half.

            2. Thanks for the feedback... I'll use the ceramic dish and hope for the best. I'm not making the bread salad because it doesn't sound that appetising to me, and it's hard to get good bread around here... we're going to have it with potato wedges (my favourite) and a regular salad tonight, and I might try the bread salad another time.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Kajikit

                Please don't discount the bread salad until you've tried it at least once (even if it's not this time). It's actually incredibly delicious -- more than the sum of it's parts. And it pairs beautifully with the chicken.

                Good luck and enjoy your first zuni bird. :)

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  The bread salad is so tasty, finally had it at the restaurant, you must try it! If you can't buy good bread, try it with the fairly easy N.Y. Times/Lahey/Bittman No-Knead Bread.

              2. No, don't use Pyrex! It handles heat well but do not ever heat it up and then put something cool or warm or even boiling in it. It will break and broken hot Pyrex is dangerous.

                1. agree with the above poster. pyrex may not be the best vehicle for flavor or roasting at high heat. we've made zuni chicken over a dozen times. we find that a cast iron pan works best. also, at 450F, we've found that there's really no need to flip the chicken, so we don't do the 500F then 450F. for 3.5 lbs. we do 450F for 55 min., no flipping, then allow the chicken to rest. it's perfect and the skin is a beautiful golden brown.

                  in addition to being hazardous, flipping the chicken for us resulted in loss of oven heat from continuously opening (not a problem at zuni when you have a wood fired oven) and sometimes we ripped the skin turning that greasy sucker.

                  try both ways, flipping and not flipping, if you like. we don't see much difference and flipping can be hazardous. if you decide to flip, use caution. we use that long, metal sharpening tool with a handle that came with a knife set that we don't use very often (usually sharpen on ceramic or professionally). poke that "stick" through the cavity of the chicken, lift and using tongs, carefully spin the chicken around and set the chicken back into the pan. be careful not to rip the skin when turning.

                  also, our swiss relative has taught us how yummy this chicken is with quince jelly. we order ours from e. waldo ward in sierra madre, ca.

                  buen provecho!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: revets2

                    Heh, finally a use for that thing -- haven't touched it since I got a stand sharpener. Thanks!

                  2. I agree with the above -- when I've done the Zuni Chicken (or any roast chicken, now) I do it in my largest cast iron pan, and it works perfectly.

                    1. I guess I REALLY NEED that cast iron dutch oven!
                      The chicken just went into the 450 degree oven in the white ceramic roaster... so my fingers are crossed! I usually cook my chicken low and slow to make it tender, but last time I roasted skin-on chicken breasts I did them at 400 for half as long and they were amazing, so I'm hoping this will be even better!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kajikit

                        What you really need is a Cast Iron Skillet. Very Cheap around $20 although you may need a Dutch oven for other things but for the Zuni Chicken you want the skillet.

                      2. Chicken Update - I followed the suggestion given here and didn't bother to turn it over and it cooked just fine, but it DID stick to the ceramic dish on the bottom (there was hardly any smoke/steam or spatters...)
                        When it was done I could hear all sorts of lovely sizzling sounds from the oven, and when I opened the door a very little puff of smoke/steam came out, and a lovely golden chicken was revealed. There wasn't any pan juice to speak of though, presumably because the dish was really big enough for TWO chickens so it was lonely in there...
                        I was a little disapointed in the flavour because it reminded me too much of a supermarket rotisserie chicken (albeit a really good one!) but DH loved it. Next time I make it I think I'll put garlic slivers or lemon slices under the skin with the herbs, and rub it with fresh-ground pepper as well as salt.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Kajikit

                          Thanks for the follow up. I highly recommend the skillet option; cast iron is good. The pan is pre-heated on the stove top before the chicken goes in which really does prevent sticking. I also recommend the bread salad; I probably like that even better than the chicken, but I am a carb lover.

                          From your posts, a couple things remain unclear:

                          1. Did you preseason w/ salt and pepper along w/ your thyme? 2-3 days is optimal.

                          2. What recipe are you using? I just wonder if it's missing or misrepresenting some details...

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            The dry brining of the chicken is the very essense of the recipe, IMO.

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              I didn't HAVE a written recipe to follow - I was guessing from what other people said about it. I only used the salt and thyme to season it and I think what I really missed was pepper (I'm a pepper-addict and normally add it to EVERYTHING!) I used just under a teaspoon of salt, which was as much as I could handle - I cooked salt-free for years and while I gave that up I still don't like very salty foods.

                              BTW, I had a taste of the leftover chicken this morning and it's FANTASTIC cold! The flavour seems to have developed overnight and I can taste a light smokiness that's just wonderful. I think I'm going to make a big batch of this chicken for the next church potluck and take it along cold.

                              1. re: Kajikit

                                The cookbook is one of my favorites and it is well worth purchasing but the recipe is available online to guide you next time, compare these:



                                1. re: Kajikit

                                  Very pretty picture. Below is a link to the Zuni Chicken and bread salad recipe. It's virtually identical to the book recipe.


                                  BTW, I didn't think I would like the bread salad either. But, after reading all the raves, I decided to try it. Boy, was it mouth wateringly good. Crisp and chewy, there was a virtual contrast of flavors - tart from the vinegars, sweet from the currants, crunchy from the pine nuts and peppery from the argula. And, they were all encapsulated by the bread.

                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    Thanks for the link, but the article seemed off in its discussion of fryers; at least in SF I can find whole fryers just about everywhere, from the smallest butcher to Safeway....is it really difficult to get whole (not cut-up) fryers in some parts of the country?

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      Those are the Judy Rodger's words about the fryers. Maybe when she wrote the Zuni cookbook, this was more of an issue?

                                      I live in the Northeast and I have not had any difficulty finding a small enough bird. I'm not sure if they were fryers or just small chickens.

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        She didn't mean you can't find whole chickens, she meant it's sometimes hard to get really small ones, plus stores call the smaller ones fryers and the big ones roasters, she's telling you to get the fryer in spite of the fact that you are planning to roast it.

                                        Kajikit : Zuni calls for 3/4 teas. per pound of chicken. Sounds like a lot , but it doesn't really make the bird taste salty...perhaps because it's so far in advance, I don't know. The only think a little salty to my taste were the drippings, so it's important not to salt the bread salad before you drizzle w/ the drippings. Seriously, make the bread salad.

                                        1. re: danna

                                          Well, it does say, "small birds rarely make it to the display case intact; most are sacrificed for parts".

                                          not true at least here, where *really* small whole fryers are at least as available as parts, but if it is quoted from the book, and the book is older, I guess that does make sense.

                                    2. re: Kajikit

                                      Thanks for the photo. I can't quite tell, but the photo makes the bird looked stuffed w/ something. Yes, no? IMHO, I do think it's important to flip the bird breast side down and then back up to finish; it keeps the breast meat moist and makes the skin evenly brown and crispy. I take the skillet out of the oven (to minimize heat loss) and then flip w/ tongs and a big metal spatula lifting the underside. I usually have a long oven mitt on my right hand to protect from any sputtering oil. It's not too bad though...

                                      Definitely preseason w/ pepper next time. I don't use too much since I find that a little goes a long way in flavor over the course of 2-3 days. I use 3/4 tsp. kosher salt per pound of bird. Some hounds have mentioned that they've found that too salty, so you could reduce it a bit or brush off any excess salt on the skin prior to roasting. Having enough salt is important for the "dry brining" method.

                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        No, it wasn't stuffed - it's just a trick of the light. The bird was quite small and it came out amazingly tender and juicy - any more juicy and it would have been falling off the bone! DH enjoyed the chicken so much that he asked me to make it again, and we're having it for Valentine's Day :)

                                2. I have had terrific success making this with quartered chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken. I usually make it with several wing/breast quarters. I've used a cast iron skillet and an All clad SS skillet -- both worked well.

                                  IMO it's crucial to liberally salt the chicken and season it well. Since most dry (and wet) brines call for a salt/sugar mix, I have used it for this chicken with great success. The ability of sugar to enhance the savory flavor of the chicken is, unfortunately, often overlooked.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    How do you modify (if at all) the temp and time called for in the recipe? My attempts at breast-only Zuni were mediocre. Do you crowd the pan, or allow space between breasts.

                                    1. re: danna

                                      Same temp. 3 breast quarters in a 12 inch skillet, which allows some room around each. Af far as time, I winged it (pun intended). I did 10 min flip then 15, and vice versa. About. USed meat thermo.

                                      I have also eliminated the oven flipping and pan seared the skin side in blistering hot skillet turned and finished in the hot oven.

                                      Frankly, they come out basically the same way each time. Which is excellent.

                                      I also roasted shallots with the chix once.

                                  2. I would nix the pyrex and use a cast iron skillet. I've done it this way a few times. Get it hot on the stove , sear, then transfer to a hot oven. My smoke alarm always goes off when i make this chicken. Totally worth it though.

                                    1. What about using Corning ware as opposed to Pyrex? I think it may be able to withstand the heat shock.
                                      Also, I'd like to do two birds at a time, since there are 7 of us. Any adjustments re: time? Thanks.

                                      1. i've used it all. i think you'll be sorry if you use anything other than preheated good quality cast iron (like lodge).

                                        i use 1 tbs. diamond kosher salt. the brand of salt matters. if i was using morton's kosher, i'd cut it in half or wouldn't use it at all. it's denser and less flaky than diamond.

                                        i do not put lemon under the skin because of moisture. the drier the skin, the crispier the outcome. for the last 12 hours, i loosely cover my bird with paper towels only. i stuff fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme under the skin, then i salt and pepper (freshly ground makes a difference...like coffee).

                                        i prefer mary's chickens or the organic rosies. the rosies are usually a bit large, but a small mary's is perfect. she also raises some of the best heritage turkey's. www.marysturkeys.com.

                                        i suggest you buy judy rodger's beautiful book, but without it, here's a good recipe from the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...):

                                        Roast chicken with truffles and truffle butter

                                        Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus overnight refrigeration

                                        Servings: 4

                                        Note: This simple but unbelievably delicious dish was part of S. Irene Virbila's Feb. 22 article about cooking with black truffles. Use best quality butter; we used Double Devon Cream butter. Fresh black truffles are available through February or March from Plantin America, (201) 867-4590 or (212) 564-4313; fax (212) 658-9120; http://www.plantin.com .

                                        Truffle butter

                                        3 tablespoons minced black truffles

                                        6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

                                        1. Peel the rough outside of the truffle with a peeler or paring knife before mincing, or use truffle scraps reserved from another recipe.

                                        2. Mix the truffle into the softened butter. Form a log, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate. (You'll use 2 tablespoons with the chicken; save the rest for another use.


                                        Roast chicken

                                        1 free-range chicken, 3 3/4 to 4 pounds

                                        1 teaspoon kosher salt

                                        1 (1- to 1 1/2 -ounce) truffle

                                        1 cup chicken stock

                                        tablespoons truffle butter

                                        1. The night before, wash and thoroughly dry the chicken. Lightly salt the cavity and the outside of the chicken with kosher salt (kosher salt is essential). Loosely drape the chicken in paper towels, place in a pan or on a tray in the refrigerator and leave overnight.

                                        2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 3 hours before you want to roast it. Rinse off the salt, dry the chicken and carefully place three thin slices of truffle (about one-sixth-inch thick) under the skin on each of the side of breast (six slices total), being careful not to rip the skin. Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen twine and let the chicken rest for 3 hours.

                                        3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat a small heavy roasting pan (preferably not much larger than the chicken) at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

                                        4. Place the chicken in the hot roasting pan (no rack), breast side up. You'll hear a sizzle and know it's hot enough. A 4-pound chicken should take 55 minutes to 1 hour to roast. No basting is needed.

                                        5. When the chicken is done, set it aside on a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

                                        6. Meanwhile, pour off everything but a tablespoon or so of fat and set the roasting pan over a burner, scraping up the caramelized bits with a wooden spatula and adding a splash or ladle of chicken stock, probably about a cup. Cook until it's reduced and slightly thickened, remove from the heat, and whisk in 2 tablespoons of room temperature truffle butter.

                                        7. Pour the juices into a sauce boat and add a tablespoon of minced truffle. Serve on the side with the chicken carved into pieces.

                                        Each serving: 540 calories; 56 grams protein; 0 carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 33 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 238 mg. cholesterol; 741 mg. sodium.

                                        buen provecho!