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Help! Zuni Chicken....

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I really wanted to have Zuni Chicken on Christmas (I've made it before and love it. It's a great special-occasion chicken, and since there will only be three of us partaking, there's no need for a goose/turkey/ham/whatever).

Here's the issue: my mom said she'd pick up the chicken, but she bought a kosher bird! Can I still do it? Has anyone tried it?

I know you're not supposed to brine a kosher bird, so is the "dry-brining" S&P 2 days in advance out as well? Could I just put the pepper on, or would that not have the desired effect? Should I just give up and make the Hazan chicken (if I do that, do you think I could still do the bread salad, or do I really need to redo the whole menu??)

Thanks for any advice!

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  1. I have Zunied kosher chickens. Yes, skip the salting step. The result is tasty, albeit with slightly less-crisp skin.

    1. I've done this recipe a few times, and I seem to recall that she says something in the recipe about this. If you dry the skin well, it should still crisp up. Rinse it off, pat it dry and let it sit, uncovered, in the fridge for an hour or so before cooking. (Also make sure the bottom is dry before you put it on your pre-heated baking sheet.) Good luck!

      1. I have never cooked a kosher bird before, but based on everything I hear, you should not add anymore salt. You can still pre-marinate by sprinkling on a little black pepper and tucking some fresh herbs (I prefer thyme) under the skin per Zuni directions. Then proceed w/ the recipe as you normally would, and you'll be enjoying Zuni chicken and bread salad on Christmas! Let us know how it goes...

        1. Just wanted to add that I always skip the brining step in the Zuni recipe, and it always comes out great. I think a little improvisation will be a 100% fine.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Mandymac

            Final report: I put the herbs under the skin 2 days in advance, peppered the skin, and LIGHTLY (<1/2 tsp for the whole 3 1/4 lb bird) salted the skin on the breasts and thighs, in the hopes of getting some good crispiness.

            The chicken and bread salad were spectacular, as usual (though the skin was not quite as brown and crispy as on other occasions). The drippings, while having great flavor, were incredibly salty. The little bit I used in the bread salad was fine, since I hadn't salted that much to begin with. We mixed the rest of the salty drippings into the leftover chicken stock we'd made earlier that week, which worked well since the broth was in need of some salt.

            I'd get a non-kosher bird next time, but it's definitely doable with a kosher chicken if that's what you've got! Thanks for all the advice!

            1. re: Mandymac

              But the brining step is what makes it so great! It's her siganture riff on plain roast chicken. That and the bread salad.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                I think the high heat is what separates the Zuni chicken from plain chicken: producing crisp skin, moist interior. Seriously, a bird cooked at high heat retains more moisture. I feel like I've read on here ppl debating whether brining actually does much, or if it's one of those food myths. Not to knock it or anything, but I can attest to the fact that this recipe, w/o brining, is excellent, not something I would personally need any improvement to.

                1. re: Mandymac

                  High heat roasting doesn't separate it at all, IMO. It's an extremely common technique that many people default to anyway. I do it the majority of the time no matter what. Found in countless cookbooks.

                  Brining is not a food myth. It's a proven technique. Whether people like how brining changes the taste and texture of food is the question. Many people think it improves poultry and others don't.

                  Judy Rodger's riff is the "presalting." Discussed in the book and implemented in the recipe. DRY brining is not as common a technique as brining is salt solution or high heat roasting.

                  I've high heat roasted many a chicken, brined and not and IMO the brined chicken tastes better. The dry-brined Zuni chicken recipe is one of the best I've made.

                  1. re: Mandymac

                    I've tried it both ways, and the dry brining does improve the flavor. I like to wash and dry the chicken, salt it, and let it sit uncovered in the fridge all day. I dry it off thoroughly before putting it in the oven on it's (preheated) pan - it's never let me down.

                    At first I was really careful to use only smaller chickens - as she suggests, but I find that any size will roast fine if you manage the temperature according to her directions.