I broke a cardinal home maker rule. I decided to try something totally untested for my dinner party.
I brined a chicken.
I’m a firm believer that the best chicken of all time is made in a slow cooker – but I’d been seeing a few sporadic comments about how a chicken that has been brined before it’s roasted is incredibly moist and flavorful. People who brine never seem to go back. So, I read everything I could get my hands on about brining. This resource was most helpful (I had no idea that salts have different levels of saltiness). You can apparently brine chicken just in salt and water and sugar, or in a million different varieties of spices, liquids, sweeteners, etc. I decided to combine a few, very simple ideas.
I followed the brining recipe from Cooks Illustrated, but added most of the spices that would make up pickling spice as well. Also, since recommendations on the amount of time the chicken is supposed to soak vary A LOT, I tried to do an average of everyone’s recommendations…without spending my whole life waiting for the silly chicken. (I brined it a bit longer than just overnight, and then pulled it out and dried it in the fridge for a lot of the day, before prepping for the way I wanted to cook the chicken.)
By the way, biggest problem with this method? All the recipes assume that I have a container large enough to hold all the brine and the whole chicken. I don’t believe any of these recipes are designed for someone with just one refrigerator. (I put it in my crockpot and hoped for the best even though I couldn’t put in all the water I wanted to.)
And it worked.
This was delicious chicken. With even more delicious skin.
(I know, I know–I need a better camera…it’s also really hard to take pictures when you’re cooking and hosting a party.)
Starting the night before, brine the chicken in a mixture of your desire. Make sure the whole thing is submerged so the whole thing is sufficiently brined. Then–and this is key–pull it out of the brine mixture, rinse it off a little, and let it dry out by putting it back in the empty container, uncovered, in your fridge so the skin dries out a bit. (This ensures the skin is extra crispy when you roast it.)
From here, you can cook the chicken however you want. This is just a particularly wonderful way (especially if your guests don’t like spicy).
First, do a dry rub with ginger and thyme. Let that hang out while your chicken is drying out.
Then, create an herb butter. Mix 4+ Tbs. butter with garlic and thyme. Soften this enough so it’s very malleable. Take half of this mixture and–even though it’s gross–spread it under the chicken skin. You can do this pretty easily, gently lifting the skin around the breast area, and spreading the herb butter inside. Then, stuff as many orange wedges and onion pieces as you can inside the chicken. Keeps everything nice and moist.
Preheat the oven to 450. Put the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet alongside some additional onion pieces, as well as potatoes and/or sweet potatoes. If you’d like, you can also add orange wedges to this collection of vegetables for roasting. Toss all this in the oven for 30 minutes.
At this point, turn over each vegetable so it can roast evenly, and baste the chicken in the remaining herb butter. This can just go on the outside. (Shameless product plug: silicone basting brushes are AWESOME. They’re easy to baste with, and they’re so, so, so easy to clean afterwards.) Roast everything for about 10 minutes more.
Remove the potatoes and other vegetables at this point so they don’t get too brown. Re-baste the chicken with whatever juices are in the pan. Continue cooking until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the thigh reads 165.
Then, let the chicken sit for about 10-15 minutes.
So delicious. Seriously. Rivals my crockpot chicken for being incredibly moist. I’m definitely doing this again. And it was a hit at the dinner party. Actually, such a hit that people were peeling the skin off the chicken and just eating it. And there was nothing but carcass left at the end.