By Chef Domenica Catelli
I was in San Francisco last week with my daughter and some friends of the family. We were doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, and then enjoyed our traditional dinner at Zuni Café, a restaurant dedicated to classic California cuisine. Zuni is known for their whole brick-oven-roasted chicken.
On a winter’s night there is something so comforting about this classic and simple dinner. Most of us don’t have a brick oven in our kitchens, but we can reproduce a moist, delicious, healthy and simple dinner like this with very little prep time. Yes, the cooking time is longer than 15 minutes, but once you put it in the oven, you can set a timer, relax by the fire and wait for dinner.
As with most meats, the biggest problem I see is that people tend to cook at too low of a temperature for too long. So here’s how to do it right:
- Buy a whole chicken — preferably free- range and better yet, organic (I notice a much better flavor in these birds). You can either have the butcher at the store quarter it for quicker cooking, you can cook it whole, or you can quarter it yourself.
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Rub down the chicken with extra virgin olive oil and a generous coating of kosher salt and black pepper. This is the simplest roast. You can bump it up a notch by rubbing the chicken with fresh chopped rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Another tip for great flavor is to squeeze fresh lemon on the chicken and then leave the rinds in the roasting pan.
- Place chicken in a shallow baking dish with cut-up carrot, celery, onion, and potato wedges. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 325 degrees and roast for another 20-35 minutes, depending on the weight of your chicken. (Editor’s note: Use a food thermometer to make sure it’s done.)
- Finish with fresh chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy a simply delicious dinner.
Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!