On our Facebook poll for the best restaurant chicken in the West, Zuni Café in San Francisco came out on top. This recipe is inspired by the method outlined in The Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. A small chicken comes out the juiciest; a bigger one, the most crisp.
1 chicken, 3* to 4 1/2 lbs., lumps of fat and tail removed, rinsed and patted very dry
Fine sea salt (1 1/2 tsp. for a 3- to 3 3/4-lb. chicken or 2 tsp. for a 4- to 4 1/2-lb. chicken)
Pepper (3/4 tsp. for a smaller chicken or 1 tsp. for a larger one)
About 1 tbsp. olive oil (for plain or French Herb chicken)
How to Make It
Slide 2 fingers between breast skin and meat on chicken to make pockets. Turn chicken over and loosen thigh skin the same way. Mix salt and pepper; evenly rub 1/4 tsp. over meat in each pocket and the rest over outside of bird. Put chicken on a rack in a rimmed pan, very loosely cover with plastic wrap, and chill 2 days.
Pat chicken dry inside and out. Make seasoning, if using, and add to chicken as directed. Oil chicken (for plain or French Herb). Set chicken breast-up on a V-shaped rack in a 12- by 17-in. roasting pan; tuck wing tips under if you like. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 475°.
Roast chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally through thickest part of breast reaches 160°, 30 to 45 minutes for a smaller bird or 45 to 50 minutes for a larger one. Transfer chicken to a warm platter and let stand in a warm place about 10 minutes.
*To find small (uncooked) chickens, try markets that roast rotisserie birds (which are small) on-site.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving plain chicken.