RECIPE: Get ready to become addicted to Zuni sheet pan chicken

Zuni Sheet Pan Chicken adapted from It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super Busy Home Cook by Gweneth Paltrow and Thea Baumann.
Image Credit: Claire Sear

San Francisco’s legendary Zuni Café is famous for its roasted chicken, which is cooked in a wood-fired brick oven and served with a warm bread salad of scallions, garlic, mustard greens, dried currants and pine nuts. For most home chefs, the original Zuni Café roasted chicken bread salad is too complicated and labour intensive. The recipe requires days of salting whole chickens, cooking at very high heat and flipping mid-way thru roasting.

For those who own an outdoor wood-burning oven, I recommend the original Zuni cafe recipe. For everyone else, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Zuni sheet pan chicken is absolutely brilliant. Yes, it's Gwyneth Paltrow the actress — she also dabbles in cookery. This is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever made. I guarantee that once you make this, you will make it again and again. 

 It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super Busy Home Cook by Gweneth Paltrow and Thea Baumann
It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super Busy Home Cook by Gweneth Paltrow and Thea Baumann
Image Credit:

The lemon garlicky pan sauce poured over the refreshing greens, warm toasted torn baguette and roasted chicken makes this salad addictive. Do not be afraid of the anchovies. Even my friend who despises anchovies loves this chicken recipe. You need to use good quality anchovies preferably that come in a jar. The easiest way to get your chicken into eight perfect pieces is to have your butcher do it for you. Find the best salad greens at your local farmers market.

Zuni Sheet Pan Chicken (adapted from It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super Busy Home Cook by Gweneth Paltrow and Thea Baumann. goop press)

1 whole chicken preferably organic and free-range, about 1.6kg (3½ lb), cut into 8 pieces
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled, smashed with the back of a knife
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, zested and cut in half
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 baguette, torn into roughly 2cm-5cm (¾ in-2in) pieces
2 anchovies, finely chopped or smashed with a fork
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp water
4 large handfuls of rocket, mustard greens, kale, escarole or whatever greens you like
lemon wedges, optional

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.  Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side-up on a large rimmed baking sheet or in a large baking dish or roasting pan and scatter the garlic cloves around them.

In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, thyme, salt, several generous grinds of pepper, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix together and rub all over the chicken, being sure to get some under the skin.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the chicken, undisturbed, for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove from the oven and arrange the torn bread and zested lemon halves in between the chicken pieces, tossing them in any juice the chicken has released. Drizzle everything with another good glug of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and return the pan to the oven to roast for 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, combine the anchovies, vinegar and water in a small bowl and set aside. Place the salad greens in a large shallow serving bowl.

Remove the chicken from the oven and immediately add the anchovy mixture – this will help deglaze the pan so you don’t lose all those nice crispy bits.

Use tongs (or your fingers) to pluck out the croutons and add them to the serving bowl with the rocket (or other greens). Toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Top with the chicken pieces and lightly tent the bowl with aluminium foil.

Next, take the garlic cloves and squeeze them out of their skins back on to the baking sheet and squeeze the roasted lemon halves over to release all their juice.

Use a wooden spoon or spatula to crush the softened garlic cloves and scrape up as much of the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan as possible.

Pour about half the garlicky pan sauce over the chicken and bread salad and serve with the remaining sauce on the side and lemon wedges to finish.

— Claire Sear is a Vancouver based food, drink & lifestyle writer.

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