Ever since I brined my first pork chop, I’ve been a brine believer. I don’t know why I never thought to bring meat before, but for some reason I always thought brining was for turkeys on Thanksgiving. And even then, I figured people were just trying to be all, “Look at me, brining a turkey!” I didn’t realize what a difference it makes.
On my journey to eat healthier, not only am I trying to find good sources of meat, but I’m trying to learn to eat AND ENJOY all parts of the animal. As a child, I wasn’t much of a fan of meat (or vegetables, or really anything but cheese and pop). While trying to lose the weight I gained in college, I learned to like vegetables. It was a slow, focused, meticulous process of eating a tiny bit of a vegetable with something I DID like. Or covering it in a sauce, or baking into a casserole or hiding in soup. I know, an adult eating like a child. But it worked. And I’m convinced you can learn to like anything – either by adapting to the taste, or finding better ways to cook stuff.
I have a confession: I eat chicken skin (it’s like bacon from chickens). And I love dark meat!
For example, there’s an art to the perfect broccoli. And for me, it involves the Goldilocks method of not too cooked, but avoiding not cooked enough. Along with some salt, pepper, garlic and as a treat, parmesan cheese. Spinach used to gross me out until I realized I could “hide” a generous portion in most soups and casseroles without even tasting it if I chopped it up. It was the big pieces of spinach and their kind of stringy, slimy texture that turned me off. But I didn’t mind the flavor. I had a similar experience with peppers. I actually liked them raw! But if they got too over-cooked and were in big pieces, the flavor seemed bitter and the texture slimy. Slimy’s a problem for me, apparently. For example, I learned I liked tomatoes as long as I didn’t eat the slimy seeds.
Now that I can’t eat peppers (new allergy), and as an off-shoot am trying to eat less tomatoes, it’s funny to look back at the former me. The me who would eat cheese sandwiches – American cheese on bread and maybe one piece of lettuce – nothing else, and laugh. I can’t imagine a sandwich now without a pile of meat or tomatoes and tons of other veggies if they’re available. And beyond that, I feel like the bread, once a staple in my life, was just a filler. I’d rather have that meat, cooked well (not processed into lunch meat) on a plate next to veggies. Do I still love bread? Yes, but I’d rather have one delicious piece made into crunchy garlic bread that eat mediocre store bread every single day.
Am I a snob? Maybe. But I think as I’ve learned to force myself to experiment, I’ve branched out beyond my former favorite foods (which I still love) and have a wider variety of vitamins and minerals, and a bigger list of choices when it comes to dinnertime. It’s rare I eat the same thing two weeks in a row.
Oven roasted chicken is also kind of new on my list of foods I enjoy. I used to be freaked out by thawed raw chicken. I know lots of people with this fear. But one random day I decided I wanted to roast a whole chicken. A friend of mine suggested trying beer butt chicken and while my fear of salmonella didn’t go away in one or two rounds of chicken making, I am now longer scared of chicken juices. In fact, sometimes I worry I’m TOO casual with it. But that’s a story for another day.
But sometimes I get bored with the same oven roasted chicken. Still delicious? Yes, but I like a little challenge and variety. So when I got a whole cut up chicken from Phil’s Farm at the farmer’s market this weekend (more on Phil’s farm – I am going to get some other products from them and do a separate write-up), I decided to go ahead and cook the whole thing, and see how it compared to cooking a whole un-cut up chicken. You’d probably think it would net similar results, but surprisingly it didn’t!
First, it cooked faster. Normally a whole chicken takes 1 ½-2 hours in the oven, even with the beer can in it, depending on size. This cooked in 45-50 minutes.
Second, I generally have to tent my whole chickens so the skin doesn’t burn. But this required no maintenance while it cooked. In fact, I went off in the other room and forgot about the chicken until the timer went off.
And finally, when this chicken was done, I had all of the cut up parts of chicken to eat, rather than a whole bowl of shredded chicken. Don’t get me wrong, shredded chicken has its place. It’s delicious on salads, in tacos, in an avocado-based chicken salad, or just plain old shredded chicken on a plate with sides. It’s versatile. But by the end of the week, I’m kind of chickened out. In this case, I have two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings. And I’m excited to eat all of it. I’ll probably eat it in fairly boring ways (or even make tacos or the chicken salad with one of the breasts), but it feels less mundane. And if you have a picky family, it’s easy to sort out dark meat and white meat cuts. Everybody wins!
It’s definitely a keeper.
The only downside to roasting this way are the juices that come off. I cooked mine on a bed of onions and potatoes. But the veggies didn’t really roast up since they were cooking in juices. This isn’t a terrible thing, but I think you really need a raised roasting pan or have to like non-crispy veggies.
In my case, I sorted out the potato (yes, I only had one potato) and the onions. I left the onions in the juices and used my immersion blender to make a sort of gravy. The potatoes were similar to the potatoes when you make a roast. Next time I’ll use more potatoes, and use them and some of the ‘gravy’ and make mashed potatoes. I also like mashed cauliflower, so I’d also throw some cauliflower in there for a potatoes/cauliflower mash.
So, let’s get to the recipe!
Oven Roasted Cut-Up Brined Chicken
- 6 cups water
- 3/8 cup salt
- Onion, splash of lemon juice, drizzle of honey, dried Italian seasoning, black pepper, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, etc.
Mix the water and salt until the salt dissolves. Then add in your ‘seasonings.’ A brine takes the place of a marinade, so if you want extra flavor, add it to the brine. I used everything listed above. None of them had an over-powering flavor in the finished product.
I let the chicken sit in the brine on my counter for 1 hour. I’ve read to do 30 minutes to an hour. But even fifteen minutes makes a difference.
- 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, brined (see above)
- Vegetables to make a bed
- Dry rub seasoning (I used a pre-mixed seasoning I got from a BBQ store in KC plus some black pepper)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
After the chicken is brined, put your cut up veggies in the bottom of your pan and season. For my veggies I used one large onion, one small potato (both chopped into medium pieces), and two cloves of garlic, chopped pretty finely. I would suggest using whatever you have on hand or like. Next time I’ll do more potatoes, cauliflower, onions, garlic and maybe some leeks and mushrooms. The sky’s the limit. Just remember the veggies WON’T crisp up since they’ll be cooking in the chicken juices.
Lay the pieces of chicken on top of the veggies. (I didn’t rinse or dry my chicken – some suggest doing so, others say it’s a waste of time.). Rub with butter, then season.
Place in oven for about 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and cover with foil for at least 15 minutes. (I let mine sit 30-35 minutes while I went for a walk).
If you want to make a very simple sauce, you can blend some of your veggies in the juices at the bottom of the pan. I pulled my potatoes out, and made my sauce with onions and garlic. Simply blend with an immersion blender. This will give the juices a bit more of a texture. You could also make a “real” gravy by thickening with flour or cornstarch or other thickening agents.
That’s it! It’s very simple. You can definitely NOT make any type of gravy if gravy isn’t your thing. And instead just pull the veggies out with a slotted spoon and place on the plate with whatever piece(s) of chicken you’d like.
Enjoy! I know you will!
Chicken in the brine. The brine is super-easy to make. It can be as simple as just salt water. Or you can add “aromatics” or other things for flavor.
Here are my admittedly pretty pathetic vegetables. I haven’t been to the store this week. But it worked as a bed to keep the chicken pieces from sitting in their own juices.
And here’s the product right before it goes in the oven. It’s been a long week (already), so I forgot to rub the chicken with butter. So instead, I just laid pats of butter on top.