Although the menu at the Zuni Cafe, one of San Francisco's iconic restaurants, changes frequently, this is one dish that regular customers insist on keeping constant.
- 1 (2 3/4 - 3 1/2-lb.) chicken, preferably a fryer, lump of fat inside chicken discarded
- 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or sage
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1⁄2 - 3⁄4 lb. day-old chewy country-style bread (not sourdough), cut into large chunks, crust removed
- 8 Tbsp. mild olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. dried currants
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 scallions trimmed, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
- 4 handfuls (about 3 oz.) baby red mustard greens or arugula or frisee leaves
Rinse chicken, pat very dry inside and out, and put on a plate. Loosen skin from breast and thighs without tearing it and tuck an herb sprig into each pocket. Liberally season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
Put bread on a baking sheet and brush with 3 tbsp. of the oil. Broil until lightly colored on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear bread into 2"-3" wads and put into a large bowl. Preheat oven to 475°. Mix white vinegar, 4 tbsp. of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Toss 1⁄4 cup of the vinaigrette with the bread. Soak currants in red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. warm water in small bowl.
Heat a 10" ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Wipe chicken dry, put in skillet breast side up, and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Turn bird over and roast for 10-20 minutes more, then flip back over to recrisp breast skin, 5-10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, warm pine nuts in oven for 1-2 minutes, then add to bread. Sweat garlic and scallions in 1 tbsp. of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes. Add to bread and toss well. Drain currants and add to bread, then add stock or water and toss again. Put bread salad into a small baking dish and tent with foil. Transfer to oven when chicken gets its last turn.
Remove chicken from oven and turn off heat, leaving bread salad in oven for 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate. Pour off fat from skillet, leaving pan drippings behind. Swirl 1 tbsp. water in skillet. Slash skin between thighs and breast of chicken, then tilt bird and plate over skillet, draining juices into drippings. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then carve into 8 pieces.
Simmer pan drippings over medium heat, scraping up browned bits, for 1 minute. Toss hot bread salad with a spoonful of pan drippings in a bowl, ad greens and remaining vinaigrette, and toss well. Put bread salad on a platter and arrange chicken on top.