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How To Make Chicken Schmaltz Croutons

What happens when you roast a chicken over bread cubes? Magic.

Published July 20, 2021.

If a Mount Rushmore of roast chicken exists, there’s little doubt Judy Rodgers would be one of the faces.

Rodgers, who died in 2013, was owner of San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe and author of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, inarguably one of the most beloved culinary tomes of recent memory.

Zuni Cafe was famous for its roast chicken served alongside a warm bread salad. Rodgers’ revolutionary recipe involved salting the bird three days in advance. Before Zuni, the common thinking was that salting the bird for too long extracted too much moisture, leaving the meat dry. But Rodgers discovered that after the initial drawing out of moisture to the surface, the chicken absorbs that moisture right back in, flavoring the interior meat in the process. The result? Crisp skin, plus seasoned, flavorful, juicy chicken meat all the way through. 

ATK’s homage to Zuni Cafe roast chicken with warm bread salad is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite recipe. If I had to make one dish to impress friends, this would be it. But it’s not just because of the incredible chicken. The secret weapon is the chicken schmaltz croutons.

First, watch this step-by-step recipe video (the written recipe is here). I’ll wait. I promise it’s the most satisfying 13 minutes you’ll spend today.

Did you see the part where the spatchcocked chicken is roasted on top of the bread cubes? Did it make you imagine how that bread—which absorbs the chicken drippings and turns golden and crunchy—must taste? I’m no fan of hyperbole, but I can genuinely say these chicken schmaltz croutons are one of the tastiest bites I’ve ever experienced.

Let’s review the steps to make these croutons possible. This is assuming you’re roasting a spatchcocked chicken in a 12-inch skillet.

Chicken Schmaltz Crouton picture
  1. You’ll need four (1-inch-thick) slices of day-old country bread, which is about 8 ounces. Remove the bottom crusts and cut the slices into ¾- to 1-inch pieces. This yields about five cups.
  2. In a bowl, toss the bread cubes with ¼ cup of chicken broth and two tablespoons of olive oil until evenly moistened. Arrange bread cubes in a skillet in a single layer, with the majority of the crusted pieces near the center, crust side up.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your seasoned spatchcocked chicken, skin side up, over the bread cubes in the skillet. Roast until breast hits 160 degrees and thighs 175 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest uncovered for 15 minutes. Run a thin metal spatula under the bread to loosen the cubes from the bottom of the skillet. This bread should be a mix of softened, golden-brown, and crunchy pieces. 
  5. Toss the bread cubes in a salad of arugula and vinaigrette.

These chicken schmaltz croutons will rock your world.

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