I finally did it. I made the best chicken of my life: the Zuni Cafe roasted chicken. The tasty end product triggered what I like to call the ‘roast chicken proud’ sensation — a feeling of pride and glee after cooking something impressive (or, in my case, just a mild attempt at baking that doesn’t result in a total mental meltdown). The terms origins can be traced to this momentous meal but I have to say — the Zuni chicken is better (and uses zero butter, too).
I’ve eaten chicken a number of glorious ways since I’ve been in Montreal — in a crispy Lebanese sandwich, in our own bacon-laden coq au vin, in homemade chicken salad — but we agreed this was the best. Intensely flavorful after three days of dry brining, the chicken was outrageously moist and plentiful — leftovers for days. That’s what we get for buying a 5lb chicken.
We didn’t strictly adhere to the Zuni recipe — I mostly followed the Smitten Kitchen adaptation. The results were still spectacular. We also made plenty of our own changes, including slipping at least 8 fresh sage leaves from the garden in various skin pockets, adding about 4 times as many greens (spicy mizuna from the Jean-Talon Market, aka the Best Place In The World), and halving the amount of bread for the salad (which, PS, gets so chewy and warm and perfect and soaks up the plentiful amount of warm garlic and scallions — the amount of which I tripled, at least — in a way that is genius; therefore the salad may have been even better than the chicken, but at the very least, it is now my favorite salad of all time). We even cleaned the oven earlier in the day, which was gross but a blessing — no smoke in the kitchen whatsoever, which I was duly warned about by at least 10 different websites.
Afterward, we made chicken broth with the carcass, herbs, lemons and vegetable bits, which simmered overnight for about 12 hours at 180 degrees. We skimmed and strained it the next morning and I used the rich broth to make everything from lentils to pasta to kale to potato gratin to baked turnips to chickpeas.
I had some leftovers the following day dressed simply with lemon, parsley and cracked pepper, served cold, with hot stewed chickpeas, toast, and a sliced orange.
[EDIT!] Post edited to add photos of finished chicken stock (and discarded carcass) which I forgot to add earlier today. Needed to show off the gorgeous golden amber hue of the finished stock. Most cookbooks seem to praise “clear” stock above all else, but we prefer the creamy, rich opaqueness of our finished product.