The Most Useful Chicken Dish I Learned at Zuni Café Was for Staff Meal

Zuni Café in San Francisco, helmed by the late Judy Rodgers, is deservedly famous for its roast chicken, one of the only things on the twice-changing daily menu that never leaves the line-up. It is, to be sure, extraordinary: a dry-brined Rolls Royce o…

Zuni Café in San Francisco, helmed by the late Judy Rodgers, is deservedly famous for its roast chicken, one of the only things on the twice-changing daily menu that never leaves the line-up. It is, to be sure, extraordinary: a dry-brined Rolls Royce of a bird, whole-roasted from raw to order in a brick oven seasoned with almost 40 years of fat and fire. Sometimes I’d split the chicken for two with a fellow Zuni cook around midnight, the juices dripping into the sleeves of our rolled-up chef’s whites; the ticket machine blissfully quiet; the hum of a kitchen closing down under quart containers of soap and water. There’s a specific kind of hunger that happens after a deep, long push on the line. Coated in dried sweat, we’d eat the chicken with our hands, standing, in a dark nook by the bathroom in the back of the open kitchen. It tasted like cold water in a desert.

Delicious though the roast chicken is, the most useful dish I learned at Zuni was the one I’d make for staff meal: warm grilled chicken salad with lemon and leftover aioli. Cobbled together without much preciousness, it was the kind of unfussy cooking I could manage when we happened to be knee-deep in the weeds. The first time I made it was during a weekend shift, when a late-lunch rush met an early-dinner rush and staff meal was later than usual. The puzzle was how to stretch some chicken breasts to make sure the dinner crew was well-fed, quickly. I was working my favorite station (the live-fire mesquite grill), and the line cook next to me already had a full oven of birds roasting. So: This simple but surprisingly good chicken dish was born.

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Classic Chicken Salad

This family favorite chicken salad is made with celery, bell pepper, green olives, apple, lettuce, and mayo—plus a secret ingredient that makes all the difference! Continue reading “Classic Chicken Salad” »

This family favorite chicken salad is made with celery, bell pepper, green olives, apple, lettuce, and mayo—plus a secret ingredient that makes all the difference!

Continue reading "Classic Chicken Salad" »