Flattened Crispy Chicken with a chewy Zuni Bread Salad pays tribute to two of my favorite chefs, Mark Peel and Judy Rodgers.
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.
- 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.