Thursday, September 2, 2010

Recipe Time: Brined Chicken

Chicken is quite possibly my favorite meat, but is not always my favorite to cook with. I only really cook with boneless, skinless pieces because i don't know what to do with all the bones and skin! I have ONE recipe that uses chicken pieces, and you have to remove the skin anyway, which is a real pain if you don't buy it that way. I love roast chicken with stuffing, but have a hard time getting the chicken to cook without drying out (turkey is a bit easier). I've been trying to find recipes for chicken pieces (or whole chickens) that i like, because they're SO much cheaper than boneless! 

Our first night in Minnesota, my Dad made us brined chicken for dinner. I was skeptical, because instantly pickles came to mind ("brine", right?) and didn't think pickle-flavoured chicken would be all that great. But this was absolutely AMAZING! I've never had chicken so juicy and flavorful! No sauces or gravies needed! We actually did a lot of picking at the chicken while waiting for the rest of the meal to cook.

For this recipe, you will need a roaster deep enough so that you can put your chicken in it and have it completely submerged in the brine. My dad used a whole chicken and a few extra pieces. When we came home, there was a BOGO sale on back attached chicken breasts, so we used those.

And here are the ingredients:

A whole chicken, or a bunch of chicken pieces. This time it was thighs for us. I think i got about nine or ten thighs in the bottom of my small roaster, and i only needed half the brine. When i used the back attached breasts, i got six big pieces on the bottom of my BIG roaster, and this was just enough brine to cover them all!

8 c. Water
1/2 c. Salt
1/2 c. White Sugar
1/3 c. Soy Sauce
1 tsp. each of: Tarragon leaves, Thyme leaves, Rosemary leaves, and ground black pepper

Olive oil

Combine the brine ingredients and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. You can mix it in the pot you're using, or you can mix it in a seperate dish or pitcher (like i used) and pour it over the chicken. If you're not sure how much your pot will be able to contain, i suggest mixing the brine seperately.

Place the raw chicken in the pot - make sure it's not higher than the brim of the pot. Add brine - make sure chicken is completely covered. (Mine's not completely covered in the photo because my pieces are floating... I just flip them over after a few hours. Haha!)
Cover and refrigerate. The recipe i have says 2-8 hours, mostly because they're worried about bacteria growth. If you have a nice cold fridge and your chicken is nice and fresh, that's not as much of a worry, i think. I like to make sure the chicken is good and soaked, so i prepare the chicken the night before (just easier for me), so it ends up sitting anywhere between 14 - 20 hours. Dad left his in for 12 and it was perfect. I'd say no less than 6-8 for sure.
When ready to roast, drain the brine (if there's a little bit left in the pot, it's not a huge deal. If you're making broth later, it'll make it nice and flavorful!
Brush the chicken skins with olive oil and roast - however you normally roast it. I cooked it covered, and put it in at 350 for about 3 or 3 1/2 hours, but it also depends on how much chicken you're using.

The "brining" picture above is from the chicken that's in my fridge right now. Here's a photo of one of the breasts i did the other day. Scrumptious!

You can even see from a photograph how juicy this chicken is!!

I also learned about making broth while i was in Minnesota, so i figured i'd try that too. I boiled the bones and skin for several hours, then strained them out, cooled the broth and scraped off the fat, and made chicken noodle soup out of it!

Look at me getting all industrious! I even made the noodles! Can you tell? Hahaha, they're ENORMOUS and all weird shapes - in my defence, i'd never made noodles before. It was harder than it looked! I think i used too much flour...)

(yes, i need a new rolling pin!)