Faux Zuni Chicken at Home

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco is an institution and their famous and very delicious Chicken for Two (roasted in the brick oven; warm bread salad with red mustard greens, scallions, currants, and pine nuts) is to die for.  They make it to order and warn you on the menu that it takes an hour to prepare.  Which in my case, by the time it arrives, I am usually quite drunk and happy.  I chanced upon the recipe below in Food & Wine magazine and could not wait to try it out.  I have made this dish for a dinner party and also a at-home-date-night (wear the little ones out and put them to bed at 7 pm, and then dinner and movie at home).

I love the idea of baking the chicken over bread, greens and raisins.  Chicken fat (yum) gets absorbed into the bed of bread and makes a sublime (if somewhat fatty, but who cares!) dish.   I prefer using skin-on, bone-in thighs and breasts for added fat and the pleasure of eating crunchy, roasted chicken skin.  If not for a stay-at-home date night, this dish is pretty popular with the kids as well.  This is my favorite kind of dinner, made in one pot and dumped in the open after some prep and assembly.  Begs for a glass of cool, crisp white wine and a good movie. :)

Chicken Baked on a Bed of Bread and Swiss Chard (from Food & Wine Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound day-old peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1/2 loaf) – I have used fresh bread as well but this a good use of bread past it’s prime
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup salted capers, rinsed well (I omitted)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped (I used a mixture of golden and black raisins)
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)—stems finely chopped, leaves torn into pieces (other greens work as well)
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3 1/2-pound chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces, or 8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, capers, raisins, Swiss chard, shallots, garlic and thyme. Season with salt and black pepper. Spread the bread in a large enameled cast-iron casserole.
  3. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and arrange them over the bread. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper and close the casserole with a heavy lid. Bake the chicken for 35 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and parchment paper and increase the oven temperature to 400°. Bake the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes longer, or until golden on top and cooked through. Remove the casserole from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the chicken with the bread and greens.
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