Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad and Alamos Malbec

Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad

Some food memories just stick with you. This Flattened Crispy Chicken Bread Salad– paired with a 2013 Alamos Malbec– was inspired by 1990s San Francisco.

I remember the first time I visited Zuni Café. It seems ridiculous now, but I had trouble finding the place, though it’s right there in plain sight on Market Street. When I finally walked through the glass door and into the lively yet tiny space, I found myself nose to embers with an enormous wood burning oven. Needless to say, the aromas and the warmth of the place could make the notoriously gray city shine in any weather. I knew immediately I loved the place.

In those days Zuni Café was still developing its signature simplicity and Judy Rodgers herself was behind the oven; her hair piled on top of her head– pencils holding it in place. I’d heard about the tawny-skinned roast chickens for two, and chewy bread salads made with that same roast chicken for single diners like me. I was anxious to try this chicken myself. So I sat at the bar and ordered the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. By this point the restaurant was already well-established so I’d read enough reviews to know what to order, but when it came to the wine I asked my server what she’d recommend. She suggested Malbec.

Malbec is one of the five major red Bordeaux grape varietals. By the 1990s it found its way to South America where it’s become Argentina’s signature red wine grape. The high-altitude slopes of the Andes produce grapes that make superior versions of this one-time French classic. However, at the time of my server’s suggestion, Malbec was a new wine to me and to most of North America. My young palate was intrigued by the apparent contradiction of serving red wine with chicken. That’s how the herbal intensity of charred chicken, and the chewy texture of Zuni’s bread salad has come to mean Malbec to me.

It was sort of a serendipitous Malbec moment. In those days the Zuni wine list was limited mostly to California wines. Today, you’re more likely to find French and Italian labels accompanying California superstars, so I consider myself lucky that I came to meet Malbec in this unexpected manner.

Wine Pairing

2013 Alamos Malbec 

2013 Alamos Malbec
Like the purple peaks of its new world home, this deeply violet 2013 Alamos Malbec shows youth and bounce in the glass. A swirl reveals the wine’s medium body, indicating a somewhat friendly level of alcohol. There’s an explosion of dark fruit aromas on the nose– crisp and juicy black cherry, blackberry, cassis core notes, sweetened with […]
Ken Eskenazi

Price $13 (suggested retail)

Pairs well with steak, grilled or roasted vegetables, barbecue and burgers

2013 Alamos Malbec with Flattened Crispy Chicken

Malbec is most often associated with lean red meat and barbecues. It certainly shines in those arenas. But when I was asked by Alamos Wines to develop a recipe to pair with their 2013 Malbec, my heart returned to San Francisco and those early days at Zuni Café. You see, this is a sponsored challenge, part of their Daring Pairings promotion. Flank steaks, or burgers with earthy accompaniments like mushrooms, chimichurri and black pepper are certainly perfect pairings with Malbec– but are they daring? I’ve chosen the unexpected combination of charred and flattened crispy chicken thighs and a revved up adaptation of Zuni Café’s bread salad, to which I’ve added blue cheese. Is that daring enough?

This consumer friendly promotion includes a quiz to help find your preferred Daring Pairings, as well as a series of recipes from TV host and author Adam Richman. Bloggers like me are getting involved with recipes of our own, like this Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad. Go to Facebook to follow along.

I think Malbec works with flavorful lean meats and anything grilled, roasted or charred. So when I’m faced with pairing charred dark meat chicken accompanied by big flavors and strong textures, it’s easy for me to consider this 2013 Alamos Malbec. The bold use of herbs is a good match with the wine’s weight. The acid-plumped currents mimic this wine’s food-friendly jamminess, while the slight bitter in the char on the skin mirrors and further softens the surprisingly smooth tannins in this young wine. Lastly, Malbec works with funky flavors like blue cheese. I’d recommend that the wine be served slightly chilled (69ºF) with this Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad. Not at all cold, but just cool enough to seem refreshing and to accentuate its plummy notes. GREG

I was compensated for recipe development and writing this post as part of my participation in a campaign with Alamos Wines via Kitchen PLAY.  All opinions are my own.

Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread SaladFlattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad and Alamos Malbec

Flattened Crispy Chicken with Zuni Bread Salad 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2–4Source Inspired by Judy RodgersPublished

The rich undertones of this salad make it work well with the Alamos Malbec we’ve paired it with. Don’t be tempted to up the ratio of vinegar in the dressing so as to resemble other vinaigrettes you’ve loved in the past if you plan to have it work well with the wine.

Flattened Crispy Chicken with Bread Salad


  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and chopped, then divided in half)
  • 2 teaspoon chopped, mixed herbs (such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 10 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
  • 8 ounce rustic bread (cut into large chunks)
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs with skin attached
  • freshly cracked pepper (as needed)
  • 3 scallions (thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 2–3 cup arugula, frisée or red mustard greens, torn into bite size pieces (washed and dried)
  • ½ cup loosely packed, whole Italian parsley leaves (washed and dried)
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese


Preheat the oven to 450° F.

Prepare the garlic and herb mixture: Place half the garlic and all the herbs into a mortar and pestle, add a pinch of salt for grit and grind the mixture into a coarse paste; set aside.

Prepare the currants: In a small bowl, soak the currants in warm water and red wine vinegar until plumped; about 10 minutes. Drain.

Prepare the dressing: In another small bowl, whisk together the Champagne vinegar with 6 tablespoons olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Toast the bread: On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread chunks with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread the bread out into a single layer without touching if possible. Bake until lightly toasted; about 6 minutes. Your goal is chewy chunks of bread, not crunchy croutons, so watch them carefully. They should barely begin to color. Let cool, then tear into bite-size pieces. Place the pieces in an oven-proof, shallow baking dish. Whisk the dressing to emulsify if necessary and toss half of the dressing with the bread pieces; let stand while you prepare the chicken. Leave the oven on.

Prepare the chicken: Rinse the chicken thighs and pat very dry, too much moisture prevents the skin from crisping properly. Lay the thighs skin side up on a clean work surface in front of you. Slide a finger under the skin insert a few pinches of the garlic and herb mixture. Use your finger to evenly distributed the mixture, taking care not to break the skin. Smooth the skin back over the thighs as completely as possible. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Assemble the salad: Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining garlic and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until softened but not browned; about 5 minutes. Add the mixture to the baking dish with the bread, along with the plumped currants and toasted pine nuts; mix well. Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the still hot oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until quite hot; add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let the oil get hot, then place the chicken skin-side down in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and place another heavy pan on top of the chicken, so that they are pressed flat onto the pan. If the second pan is not heavy enough, weight it with some additional heat-proof objects. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed. Do not crowd the chicken; work in batches if necessary. Cook, undisturbed until the skin is very brown and crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes more, or until cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil to rest about 3 minutes, then slice it into ¾‑inch strips.

Plate the salad: Place the torn greens and whole parsley leaves into a large, wide salad bowl. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette; toss to combine. Remove the warm bread from the oven and toss it with the dressed greens.

Working quickly, spread the bread salad onto a warm serving platter and nestle the sliced chicken with its skin attached into the salad. Drizzle any accumulated juices from the cutting board over the salad. Top with crumbled blue cheese; serve immediately.