Zuni-Inspired Bread Salad with Roasted Chicken. Part II.

breadsalad0_121408Last post, I shared my discovery of the brilliance of Zuni Roasted Chicken. While Zuni’s process yields amazing results, for me, it was the bread salad that sealed the deal. Topped with the tenderest chicken your fork has ever laid a tine on, there’s so much flavor in this dish, it almost locks your brain. And the presentation factor? Outstanding. This is definitely a meal to share.

Now, while the chicken was a snap to prepare, the bread salad is its opposite. When you think “salad,” normally you think: slice things up; throw things together; toss; serve. Not so here.

I mentioned in the roasted chicken post that I cheated on both halves of the recipe. I really took some shortcuts on the already-shortened bread salad recipe posted by SmittenKitchen.com. The Zuni fans amongst you might be gasping in shock and horror, but ya know, it was just one of those days, and the recipe seemed awfully fussy. (It was the kind of day where doing even laundry seemed to involve way too many steps to even contemplate, so, I can’t really condemn a salad recipe. You have those days, too, right?)

I browsed around the web a little, and found vindication for my laziness: others, too, found the original recipe fussy and altered it to suit. (BTW, I consider “fussy” to be a compliment to the chef. Such a spectacular dish could not have been created without care and attention to detail.) So, I took the basic idea, combined a lot of steps – for example, the original recipe calls for broiling the bread, but because I was preparing the salad while the chicken was roasting, that step wasn’t possible – and changed up the vinaigrette a bit. Again, Zuni-inspired, but not Zuni-authentic. Still, it was absolutely delicious.

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Zuni-Inspired Bread Salad
based very loosely on SmittenKitchen.com’s version, who oh-so-kindly adapted from the cookbook what is a comprehensive discussion of the prep
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough), pulled into crouton sized pieces (if crust is particularly, um, crusty, cut it off)
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  2 tablespoons pine nuts
  10 or so Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced.
  1 tablespoon Roasted garlic, finely minced or crushed
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  1   scallion, thinly sliced
  1/2 cup red, yellow and/or green bell peppers, thinly julienned.
  1 big handful mixed baby greens (arugula works really well)
    Zuni-inspired Roasted Chicken, cut into pieces, for topping
    Red Wine-Mustard Vinaigrette (below)

Bread salad can be prepared while chicken is roasting. It’s a patient dish, so it can sit peacefully when you need to attend to the chicken.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add bread pieces and toast lightly, stirring frequently to turn the pieces and coat in oil.

Turn down heat to low and add pine nuts. You’re looking for a lightly toasted tan on the pine nuts, so keep an eye on them, stirring frequently. If they start to brown, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a bit, then place back on the burner.

Add the roasted garlic and stir well to season the bread. Add the scallions and the olives.

When you flip the roasted chicken for the last time, take 2 tablespoons of the chicken drippings from the pan and sprinkle over the bread mixture. Stir well. Add the peppers, greens and dressing and toss.

To serve, spread the salad evenly on the plate and lay chicken pieces over the top. Big chunks of chicken with the crispy skin side up make for the best visuals.

Present with great fanfare, to the oohs and ahhs of your guests.

Red Wine Mustard Vinaigrette
  1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, preferably Grey Poupon
  3 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar
  1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  5 tablespoons olive oil

Combine mustard, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the oil one or two tablespoons at a time, whisking continuously to emulsify. Taste to correct vinegar-oil balance, if necessary.


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