Sometimes it’s best just to keep things simple, especially when trick-or-treating starts before 4pm around here. Zuni roast chicken, mixed greens salad with parm & persimmon and sautéed mixed mushrooms.

recipe (and doggie Halloween pics) after the jump


Otis loved RuPaul’s Drag Race as much as anyone.


Technically, he’s Princess Leia, but sans buns, he’d do a mean Elvis.


SuperRu!


Superman and Princess Leia apprehend the international jewel thief.

Zuni Roast Chicken courtesy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook via the NBC website

The length of this recipe seems daunting, I know; the instructions are detailed and precise, but not difficult or time-consuming to follow in any way. If you haven’t made this yet, please don’t be put off by the number of words, but do follow them to the letter. You’ll be rewarded with the best roast chicken you’ve ever made.

One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
Salt (about 3/4 teaspoon per pound of chicken)
About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water

Seasoning the chicken
(Can be done 1 to 3 days before serving; for 3-1/4- to 3-1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days)

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper (we use 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken). Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Roasting the chicken

Preheat the oven to 475F. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500F or as low as 450F during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking by 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Place pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over, drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

Finishing and serving the chicken

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.

Set the chicken in a warm spot to rest for 5 minutes. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve.

Mixed Greens Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Serves 2

I can’t even believe I’m giving you a recipe for this, but it’s really become one of my favorite things to eat lately so I wanted to share. The sherry vinaigrette softens and offsets the dense greens with a touch of sweetness and the fruit/cheese combo adds a nice salty-sweet dimension to an otherwise plain salad. This recipe is for the salad pictured above, but feel free to play around. I’ve also tried it with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, gorgonzola, pears, apples, grapes… well, you get the idea. But definitely use chard; it’s a wonder in a salad.

1 large shallot, minced
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 teaspoons olive oil
a squirt of lemon
salt to taste
Dijon mustard, if you like
a drop of honey, if the dressing is too tart
a handful or two each of different greens (spinach, mizuna, arugula and swiss chard pictured above)
1 fuyu persimmon, cored and chopped
Parmesan shavings

In a small bowl, let the shallot sit in the sherry vinegar for a few minutes while you tear, wash and dry the greens. (I’ve read that the brief soak takes the edge off the shallots. Don’t know if that’s really true, but I always do it because it makes sense in my work flow.) Add the olive oil, lemon and salt and mix vigorously with a fork until emulsified. Taste. Add Dijon mustard and/or honey if you like.

Toss greens with dressing, adding a final layer of fruit and cheese before serving.

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