Saturday, October 20, 2012

To brine or not to brine

I think the Fall leaf colours are peaking this week, everywhere I go I'm "oohing" and "aaahing" at the amazing vibrancy all around. It's been quite dry and warm too so we've been enjoying nice walks on the trail with Nacho and traipsing through the crispy leaves. I've been particularly impressed by all the burning bushes that are in abundance here, every time I see one it's like the first time, they are just sooooo bright! I want one for our yard for sure, along with a billion other shrubs, trees and flowers. I had a mammoth bulb  planting session and put in 200 bulbs including snow drops, crocii/crocuses, tulips and daffs. We'll see how they turn out. Surprisingly, I think I could have done with another 200 easily but I didn't set aside an annual bulb budget so this will have to do for this year.

The veggie patch is almost done, still some letti/lettuces, and scallions and also the kale which is now holding on to whole leaves instead of being stripped bare by some kind of multi-legged, long bodied leaf chomping creature. I harvested some sizable parsnips, the rest of the leeks which hadn't grow much bigger than mini-size, and some juicy carrots. The parsnips were so fragrant when I was picking them, mmmm possibly my favorite root vegetable. I planned to use them all for the inaugural chicken brining I was planning for Thanksgiving dinner. it was just me and PB but I had a good sized juicy chicken ready and defrosted for us. I have wanted to brine meat for a long time but never got round to it or had sufficient space in the fridge to store the sizable container needed to fill with water and a bird so that the bird was submerged. But this year I was ready and reviewed some recipes, posted the obligatory plea for help status update on Facebook and ended up with a plan (Thanks Diana!). You can brine with salt, sugar or both and then add whatever other spices, herbs, etc you like. The brining apparently makes the roast extra tasty and tender but not overly salted as you might expect. There are a few tips to consider though:
  • ensure you have a container large enough to soak the bird
  • rinse thoroughly after brining otherwise you won't get crispy skin
  • if using a sugar brine, don't cook at too high a heat as the skin can burn 
  • determine if the recipe calls for kosher salt or table salt. if it's kosher salt and you are using table salk, half the recipe.     
 Apparantely dry brining is fast replacing traditional brining too, I am intrugied to try this. Many seasoned (haha) briners, are now converts to dry brining for superior taste, texture and less hassle preparing.

I had a large saucepan with lid which would just fit my bird in and it easily fit in the fridge too.
Here is the brine I used:

 1/4 cup table salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole chicken
sprigs of herbs (thyme, rosemary etc)

Fill container 1/4 cold water, add salt, sugar and mix to dissolve.Add chicken and herbs to liquid and then top up if needed to ensure it is submerged. you may need a lid or a weight to stop the chicken bobbing up.
 Refrigerate for 1 hour per lb or overnight. 
I let it brine overnight, probably 12 hours. More than that can over brine and make it mushy. You can brine for as little as a couple of hours if that's all you have.

I followed the plan, patted dry the chicken and roasted as usual at 375F for about 1.5 hours. It didn't brown as much as a liked so I did put oil on about 30 mins in which I think I will do at the beginning next time.

I roasted my homegrown vegetables in the pan with the juices and they came out great. PB LOVED the chicken, raved about it. I too enjoyed it. I wouldn't say that it was that different from a normal roast, but it did taste like a really good roast and was very very moist. As moist as the crock pot roast chicken I did but this one was crispy so that was an advantage. I didn't find it too salty, I love salt so it's hard for anything to be to salty! I will brine again for sure and recommend it, next time...dry brining. I'm gonna need a truckload of salt for this!