Friday, February 04, 2005

Double Zuni

Last Friday we met friends for dinner at Zuni Cafe, one of San Francisco's most well known, and well loved institutions, which has held a place on our top 5 restaurants in San Francisco since our first introduction. On that first visit, Zuni was like a new friend, exciting and full of surprises and at the same time familiar, an instant bond formed. Our visit on Friday was a date with that friend now part of our close community - perhaps with less surprises but familiar and comfortable, reliable and dependable.

We started with some Kumamoto and Fanny Bay oysters which were both delicious though the Fanny Bays easily won the table over. That made the Canadians at the table proud - Fanny Bays are from BC.

Nino had the roast duck on polenta; a tender juicy duck leg with creamy polenta. While the duck was good, he wasn't overly impressed with the preparation. I had the whole wheat spaghetti with yellowfin tuna, pinenuts and olive oil - a comfort dish with no surprises; it warmed and settled my stomach as intended. Should we have ordered the roast chicken with bread salad, Zuni's signature dish that had originally gotten us hooked?

I couldn't stop thinking about the roast chicken and bread salad over the weekend. I pulled out the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and read and reread the 4 pages of instructions. I could do this, I thought, it isn't that hard. Sure you could, said my nasty inner voice, but what are the odds it will turn out. Aha, a challenge!

I followed the instruction to a tee, salting the chicken for over 24 hours, roasting the chicken at very high heat in my All Clad 10 inch skillet, broiling and oiling bread with currants, pine nuts, scallions and garlic. It was definitely a feast and it was incredible. The chicken was juicy and moist, with crispy skin outside and tender perfectly cooked white and dark meat. The bread salad was as good as at Zuni, deliciously seasoned chunks of bread topped with a spoonful of pan juices thrown in right at the end. And most of all, those four pages of instructions was as if Judy Rodgers was in my kitchen and we were cooking this together.

Ah yes, the reliable, dependable friend.