The spirit of a zuni cafe roasted chicken



The Zuni cafe is in San Francisco.  I have never been there, however it is famous for its perfectly roasted chicken.

I found the Zuni cafe cook book in a charity shop. I had vaguely heard of it but after a flick I saw it had lots of information in the vein of a modern Elizabeth David and a high ration of text to pictures.  It was serious.

I love reading cookery books, although following a recipe is rare (it is more for general educational purposes, ideas etc). The Zuni cafe cookery book is a very interesting read and I highly recommend it.

Preparation – 2 days before 

Regarding how to roast a chicken, it advised rubbing salt into the chicken (dry brine) and leaving it loosely covered in the fridge for a few days. I tried it and can confirm wonderful results. Deliciously crisp and golden skin and meat that is juicy, most and flavourful. Even the breast. This is the one.

The chicken should be a good one; free range, organic and not too large (2-2.5 kilos is perfect). The cooking time is approximately one hour ten minutes.

This is not the exact recipe, hence the title.


One small chicken (2 – 2 1/2 kilos), sea salt, 2 tbsp butter, a handful of herbs. A mixture of thyme, lemon thyme, sage or any aromatic herbs.


Rub 4 tsp salt into the chicken all over, press down on to the skin in order that the salt sticks. Place in the fridge in a tray, loosely cover with a cloth a leave for 2 days.

Before cooking remove the chicken from the fridge. Take the pockets of skin on top of the breast and gently push your fingers inside and separate the skin to make 2 pockets between the skin and the meat. Inside the pockets rub the butter and stuff the herbs. Do not rub any fat on the outside of the chicken. Place in an oven tray.

Heat the oven to maximum temperature (on my oven that is 230 C) for twenty minutes.  Place the chicken in the oven and roast for twenty five – thirty minutes (until golden). Take it out of the oven and rotate it  so that it is skin side down. Roast for another twenty five minutes. Take it out of the oven and rotate to skin side up and roast for a further fifteen – twenty minutes until the skin is golden and crisp. Rest the chicken for ten minutes before serving.

As a test, you can prick the skin and push down on the meat. Once the juices runs clear you can be confident that the chicken is cooked. Collect the juices and reduce them in a pan.

Zuni cafe style is to toss the juices with some greens before serving with the chicken. mine was served with rosemary and potato salad with plenty of olive oil and lemon and greek style salad with tomatoes, cucumber, feta and samphire.

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