Roasted Chicken Fattoush with croutons roasted along with the chicken makes for a decadent/healthy combo! My take on the dish that put Zuni Cafe on the map. Get the ingredients that will make your fattoush divine at MaureenAboodMarket.com.
Roasted chicken fattoush may not be the first thought any of us has when we think “Fat Tuesday.”
Roasted chicken is healthy.
Fattoush, the crisp Lebanese salad with pita chips and pomegranate vinaigrette, is healthy.
But as I’ve been happily fulfilling Dan’s weekly requests for roasted chicken, and my weekly requests (to myself) for fattoush, I wondered how I might change it up some.
My focus on the pita chip factor was narrowed when my brother Richard became a fattoush fanatic last year. I attribute that development to gifting him the perfect ingredients he needed for fattoush vinaigrette (these). He attributes his fanaticism to his pita chips, which he fries a la minute in hot oil using a whole thin pita, then shatters the salted, hot, crisp little ditties into his salad just before serving.
While fattoush without the correct vinaigrette is not fattoush, he has a point.
I started thinking about the famous roasted chicken with croutons served in a salad at Zuni Café in San Fancisco, and the many recipes I’ve seen that approximate that dish. They all insist on salting the chicken in advance to heighten flavor, which I can take or leave. To me, the key to great roasted chicken is in not overcooking it. A thermometer solves this, poking around the bird in a few spots to reach 160-ish degrees in the thickest spot. Another problem-solver for even roasting is laying the chicken flat by cutting out the back (the term of art is “spatchcock,” which my friends could not get over when I served them this chicken and used that bizarre word).
The star of the dish though, in my estimation, is the croutons. Not just regular, excellent croutons, which are life-giving in their usual state. Here the croutons are well-seasoned and when baked together with the chicken (thank you Cook’s Illustrated!), absorb the drippings from roasting bird as they toast, and are transformed into a truly decadent bite.
I’ll define it further (vegetarians and vegans, look away): while not ortalon-level (thank goodness; if you binge-watch Billions on Netflix as we have lately, you’ll nod), these croutons taste better than the naughtiest, crispiest skin on a piece of perfectly fried chicken.
Mix up a fattoush salad in the style we love, roast your chicken over a bed of good bread cubes, and enter one of the greatest, most addicting special-occasion meals we’ve ever added to our line-up. Now we’ve really put the “fat” in Fat Tuesday, with simple yet seriously Mardi Gras-level Roasted Chicken Fattoush.
Roasted Chicken Fattoush
Note that a few of the pieces of bread under the bird goes overly tender during the roast. Use it, lose it, or spread those pieces out on a sheet pan and send them right back into the oven to toast up. I often ask the butcher to spatchcock the chicken for me (remove the back); if not, I do it myself with sharp kitchen shears. Save the backs in a bag in the freezer for stock-making. For the bread, homemade garlic butter glazed talami, day-old, is perfection.
For the Chicken and Croutons:
- 1 loaf country bread, cut in 1-inch cubes and dried out a bit in the oven or at room temp, enough for 6 cups
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for basting the bird
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- granulated garlic powder
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3-4 lb. chicken, back removed, patted dry
For the fattoush:
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 small garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons Garlic Mint Salt or crushed dried mint
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 hearts of romaine, chopped or torn, kept chilled until just before serving
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
- 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped or torn
Roast the chicken and croutons:
Place the oven rack in the center and heat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a enameled cast iron roaster or similar roasting pan just a little bigger than the chicken, toss the bread cubes with the olive oil and half of the chicken broth, then season lightly with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the bread in a single layer.
Without trimming any of the extra skin/fat away, lay the chicken, breast side facing up, over the bread. Season the chicken generously with granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika.
Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Brush the chicken with olive oil and add the remaining chicken stock to the pan. Continue roasting for another 30 minutes, or until a thermometer reads just under 165 degrees in several spots.
After removing the chicken from the oven, transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest, and scrape the croutons from the bottom of the roasting pan with a thin metal spatula.
Make the fattoush:
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt, mint salt or dried mint, and olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. In a large salad bowl, toss the romaine, tomatoes, onion, and radishes with the vinaigrette.
Carve the chicken breast, legs, and thighs and lay them on a warm platter. Add the croutons to the fattoush and toss to combine.
Serve immediately, with the chicken on the side or plated atop the fattoush.