Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Brining We Shall Go, A Brining...


I've babbled on several times about the joys of brining pork chops, and how The Man has made his preference known that he would absolutely prefer it if I brined pork chops every time. (I think his exact words were something along the lines of "never cook pork chops again unless you brine them!")

After the last go round of brining was a fond memory, I grilled some chicken breasts, and while they were okay, they were a little dry...which might be a result of my fear of underdone chicken and telling myself that it's okay, nay even best, to err on the side of caution and overcook the chicken a wee bit.

Bah! There's got to be a better way to do this, and as The Man is chomping on his slightly dry chicken, he says, "can you brine chicken?" This sort of stopped me in mid-grind, and my first thought was "no," but then I remembered the old Good Eats Turkey. (Don't worry, I'm not cranking the oven up to 500 degrees and inviting the local fire department this time--I save that for important holidays.)

The Good Eats Turkey brine is rather involved...flavorful, but involved, and I since I wasn't going to be brining chicken parts for as long as I brined the turkey, I figured I could go a little simpler.

I wandered around on the wide open Internet and found several different methodologys and recipes and just cobbled together a simple sugar-salt-black pepper brine...no need to get too fancy. I got a package of chicken breast--on the bone and with skin.

(Let's just face up to it now--it's hard to beat a roasted chicken with the crispy skin for sheer simple goodness. You know you like the skin...I like the skin...we just never want to admit we like the skin, because somewhere in the Fat-Free Dark Ages (known as the late 80s/early 90s), it was deemed bad with a capital B, and it stuck in our subconcious little craws even after we found out that fat (in moderation of course) was good for you.) (Like Snackwells were ever good for anyone!)

Brine:

3/4 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
2 cups boiling water
1 gallon of cold water

Combine the salt, sugar, pepper in large plastic or glass container and add boiling water. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add 1 gallon of cold water--I cheated and substituted 32 oz of ice cubes for 1 quart of the water to help cool the brine down. (What--you think I made the brine in advance and let it cool overnight in the fridge? Riiiight. I got home from work approximately 30 minutes before I started this little experiment in terror, so I need a little "assistance.")

Take chicken parts and submerse them in the brine, making sure they are completely covered by the brining solution. You can set a plate on top to help weight them down if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the refrigerator for about 1.5 hours.

To cook, remove chicken from brining solution, discarding brine. Rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and cook. I'm putting these babies on the grill, and I'll report back later this evening on how they turned out.

Okay...this was an interesting experiment...and I mean interesting in the not bad way...not as a backhanded derogatory statement (like "that screaming lime green velour jumpsuit looks very interesting on you"), but more as a puzzlement.

The chicken was berry, berry juicy, but as for extreme flavor transformation a la the pork chops...how you say--not so much. There wasn't any real excitement to the chicken breast other than they were juicy. The Good Eats turkey was a juicy and flavorful turkey, so I know the culprit in this case is the brine. I went simple with it to err on the side of caution, but I should have added a little somethin' somethin' to it for flavor.

The good news is that when I used the leftovers in a chicken recipe the next night, they didn't dry out and were still moist and juicy. I used this one from the (shhh, don't tell) Rachael Ray Magazine's April/May 2006 issue. Love her/Hate her/I do, but I still like some of her recipes. The biggest problem I have with this one is she tells you to use a rotisserie chicken from the market. Why would you want to take a lovely golden (not to mention expensive) roasted chicken and shred it up for a casserole? Instead, do what I did and cook a few extra pieces on the grill and pull them for this dish.

Chicken Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy Casserole
Rachael Ray Everyday, April/May 2006

4 servings

One medium to large rotisserie chicken (or 3-4 leftover grilled chicken parts)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the dish
8 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a large casserole dish. Pull the meat off the chicken, shredding it with your fingers or a fork into the baking dish.

2. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, about 6 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, sprinkle the flour into the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of the milk and simmer for 1 minute more. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the lemon juice, and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the gravy over the chicken in the baking dish. (Okay, this is where I did a radical departure and upped the gravy makin' ingredients by half. I'd made this recipe before, and I didn't think it had enough liquid--the casserole seemed too dry, which is a definite no-no with a casserole.)

3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter with the garlic.

4. Stir together the baking mix, the remaining 2/3 cup of milk and the cheese. Drop tablespoonfuls of the biscuit mixture on top of the casserole and brush with half of the garlic butter. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown, about 25 minutes, brushing them once or twice with the remaining garlic butter. (Which I did at the end of the baking time.)

Generally, this is a good winter dish, but it worked out for a late spring evening as well...and the leftovers are good for breakfast, too!

1 comment:

Lin said...

Ah, the joys of brining! Your chicken breasts were probably less interesting than the turkey because a) you brined for a short time and b) chicken breasts just aren't that flavorful themselves.

I find rotisserie chickens from the grocery store to be very useful. My favorite one comes from Publix and is called a Mojo. Publix pronounces it "moho", probably to keep teenagers from giggling as they order it. Joseph and I can nosh happily on a store-chicken for a couple of days. This would make a good Day Two recipe. Thanks for the hints about the gravy -- I would make the same amount of sauce but use just 1/2 of a chicken.

Instead of Bisquick, I would like to recommend Betty Crocker Garlic Cheese Biscuit mix. It comes in one of those packets (I get it at Wally World). I think that would be a more flavorful alternative. I'm kind of "off" Bisquick, probably from making too many of their "impossible" pie thingies.

Glad to see you blogging more regularly! I actually read it yesterday but didn't have time to reply. Kiss-kiss.