Chef Tom – AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Food related news recently came across my feed (no pun intended), so I thought it might be interesting to share a couple of stories. The first is about the Zuni Café in San Francisco. Long-time dining destination for the well-heeled, as well as the hoi polloi, or in this case, the gay polloi. Who knew it was one of the first gay-friendly restaurants, with a mostly gay staff, with large picture windows for full visibility.

This is a fascinating read. 

Zuni Cafe

From The New York Times:

The Forgotten Queer Legacy of Billy West and Zuni Café

The restaurant is a culinary landmark in San Francisco, but its history as a space for gay visibility is little known.

Another food-related piece of trivia. Good follow-up to my last post with all those yummy cocktails. Take a read.

The Wizard

Francis Phillip Wuppermann was the youngest of eleven children (six boys and five girls) of George Diogracia Wuppermann, the co-founder of the Angostura-Wuppermann Corporation which marketed bitters used in drinks and cocktails. A boy soprano in church, some of his early pre-acting jobs included selling toothbrushes, soliciting advertisements, and bronco busting.

As Frank Morgan, he specialized in playing courtly, sometimes eccentric or befuddled but ultimately sympathetic characters, such as the alcoholic telegraph operator in “The Human Comedy” (1943) or the shop owner in “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for “The Affairs of Cellini” (1934), and one for Best Supporting Actor in “Tortilla Flat” (1942).

Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) said that whenever she saw the scene in the film where Morgan as the Wizard is giving Dorothy’s friends gifts from his “black bag” (a diploma for the Scarecrow, a ticking heart for the Tin Man, and a medal for the Cowardly Lion), she got teary-eyed, because “Frank Morgan was just like that in real life – very generous.”

Morgan died of a heart attack on September 18, 1949, while filming “Annie Get Your Gun”. He was replaced by Louis Calhern for the film. His death came before the 1956 premiere televised broadcast on CBS of “The Wizard of Oz”, which made him the only major cast member from the film who did not live to see the film’s revived popularity and become an annual American television institution. (IMDb/Wikipedia)

Angostura Bitters

This has long been the signature dish of the Zuni Café. Admittingly this recipe appears daunting, at best. However, this one recipe has become a tried-and-true San Francisco icon and has made it onto many a soul’s “Last Meal” requests. It’s that good.

The roast chicken method alone is a keeper, but combining the chicken with the salad will make you into a legend within your circle of loved ones. 

Roast Chicken and Bread Salad

Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Serves 2-6

Ingredients:

1 (2 3/4 pound to 3 1/2 pound)) pound roasting chicken

4 tender fresh thyme sprigs, marjoram, rosemary, or sage

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 8 to 12 ounces country bread, slightly stale open-crumbed (not sourdough)

6 to 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dried currants

1 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons pine nuts (can substitute pistachios or slivered almonds)

2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered

1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4) including a little of the green part

2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth or water

A few handfuls wild baby arugula, friseé, or mustard greens (or any other spicy greens)

Instructions:

To Dry Brine the Chicken: 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 an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

**Chef Rodgers insisted that the key to the chicken was that it be a small chicken so that it cook evenly. We’ve used this method for birds up to 5 1/2 pounds and still had delicious results!

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper (we use 3/4 teaspoon 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 at least 24 hours and up to 2 days for the larger chickens).

Start the Bread Salad: Preheat the broiler. Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust (reserve the top and side crusts to use as croutons in salads or soups). Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread chunks over and crisp the other side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits, and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again. Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.

**This can be done up to 8 hours in advance!

Roast the Chicken: Preheat the oven to 475°F.  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 in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start sizzling and 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 the 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 re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

**If you are roasting a larger bird, it may take up to 90 minutes total. 

Complete the Bread Salad: While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the hot oven for a minute or two, just to warm through. Add them to the bowl of bread.

Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again.

Taste a few pieces of bread—a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well. Since the basic character of bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential. Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time.

Finish The Chicken and Bread Salad: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes or so.

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 (which may be your stovetop), and leave to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Set an ovenproof serving 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.

Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl. (It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle wads, and a few downright crispy ones.) Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter, and nestle the chicken in the salad.

ON THAT NOTE

Spare Change?

In 2007, the Playing for Change Foundation was established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. Our mission is to create positive change through music and arts education. As one of our students in Nepal stated, “Music is an indispensable part of life -‐ you cannot live without music.” We couldn’t agree more. At the Playing For Change Foundation, we live our lives by this principle and apply it to everything we do.

Iko Iko feat. Dr. John, members of Grateful Dead + more | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

Higher Ground 2020 (Stevie Wonder) | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

Get Up Stand Up feat. Skip and Cedella Marley (2020) | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

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