Every now and then I wonder what it would be like to own a restaurant. And what my restaurant would look and feel like. I think about what I would serve, what my story would be, what the decor would look like. And then I immediately remember the skinny profit margins, back-breaking work, my lack of experience in that area and tell myself that I’m crazy lol. The idea soon flies out the window! My family thanks me.
But if I did in theory own a restaurant, this would be on the menu. Food like this would be served. It’s a roasted chicken with flavors of Peruvian pollo a la brasa, my favorite chicken ever. But served over a bread salad, reminiscent of Zuni Cafe. It would be a merging of cultures, both of which I identify with and are mine. (Maybe San Francisco isn’t my culture but you know what I mean!) I would say that my food and the food I would want to serve leans feminine. This is an attribute by the way. Girly food is dope.
This chicken is so easy to throw together. The chicken marinates for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. The marinade is in style of pollo a la brasa (this recipe is adapted from The Year of Cozy) has all sorts of delicious things like: too many garlic cloves, soy sauce, ginger, spices, huacatay (or you can use fresh mint), peppers and more.
It’s an easy marinade that gets mixed together in a blender. It’s poured over the chicken and then roasted in the oven, per the way Zuni Cafe does it.
The bread salad is SO delicious. If you can’t find radicchio feel free to substitute another sturdy lettuce.
This meal is simplicity at its finest. Just good food.
The aji verde is SO delicious and if you’ve ever been to a pollo a la brasa restaurant, you’ll immediately recognize it. They usually place it on tables. It’s glorious.
Zuni Cafe-Style Peruvian Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon huacatay paste (or 1 tablespoon freshly minced mint)
- 1 fresno chile, jalapeño or aji amarillo
- 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 (3-pound) fryer chicken
- 1/4 loaf bread, cubed (I used a polenta sourdough loaf)
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 1 head radicchio, end trimmed and sliced
- 4 leaves lacinato kale, ends trimmed and sliced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
- Kosher salt
To Make the Pollo a la Brasa Marinade:
- To a blender, add the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, huacatauy (or minced mint), pepper, fresh ginger, garlic cloves, cumin, paprika, kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Blend until mostly smooth.
- To a large bowl or large plastic resealable bag, add the chicken, along with the sauce. Mix until combined and cover; transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, but ideally 24 hours.
To Cook the Chicken:
- Remove the chicken from the fridge. Holding the chicken over the trash, tilt the chicken and allow the marinade to run off in the trash. Place the chicken back on a wire rack or cutting board and using clean kitchen towels or paper towels, dry the chicken on both sides.
- Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet or shallow baking dish in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, allow the chicken to come to room temperature while the oven preheats.
- Open the oven and slide the rack out. Breast-side up, place the chicken in the pan; it will sizzle a lot when it hits the pan—that’s great! Roast the chicken until you see the chicken breasts start to blister and brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken from the oven and flip the chicken over. I found that using a pair of tongs and clean kitchen towels were super helpful.
- Return the chicken back to the oven to cook for an additional 25 minutes, until the opposite side is super golden brown. I took a peak at the chicken periodically to make sure it wasn’t getting too browned. Insert a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the chicken (where the leg meets the thigh) and you’ll know it’s ready when the thermometer hits 165 degrees F.
To Rest the Chicken:
- Get a small bowl ready. Remove the chicken from the oven and tilt the chicken so all the drippings fall into the small bowl. Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack to rest. Transfer the drippings from the pan into the same small bowl.
To Make the Bread Salad:
- Bring the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.
- To a baking sheet, add the bread cubes, along with the olive oil and a few pinches of salt; toss until the bread cubes are evenly coated in the olive oil.
- Transfer the bread cubes, along with the walnuts to a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until evenly browned for about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, add the pan drippings to a large bowl. Add the red wine vinegar, a few pinches of kosher salt, lots of rounds of black pepper; give it a taste and adjust the salt to your liking.
- Add the kale and raddichio and toss until evenly combined. Next, add the warm walnuts and bread cubes from the oven; toss until combined one last time. Transfer back to the pan (to serve) or a platter. Place the rested chicken on top and serve.
- You’re also welcome to carve up the chicken and serve that on top of the salad.