April – Even More Perfect Roast Chicken

April – Even More Perfect Roast Chicken

How would you describe the perfect roast chicken? Would you mention moist white meat, or flavorful and rich dark meat, or crackly crisp skin, or still juicy leftover white meat for sandwiches and salads the next day? Maybe your answer would be ‘and’ to all those things. You want it all.

Roasted chicken has been my signature dish for years. And I am going to make it your own as well. I have found that any form of brining will dramatically improve the flavor and moistness of any baked chicken. I commonly use two methods, a dry brine and a salted buttermilk wet brine.

Here’s the bad news, it’s almost impossible to get all things with one recipe. What are you willing to give up? The decision has to do with chicken skin vs. the moistness of the leftovers. With many methods you will get crisp skin when the chicken first comes out of the oven. But leftover chicken skin is not particularly enticing at any time.

With a dry salt brine you will get wonderfully crackly crisp skin and delicious concentrated chicken taste, just not quite as moist breast meat the next day. With a buttermilk brine your leftovers will be wonderfully moist and delicious but the chicken skin will not be quite as fabulous when just out of the oven. Don’t misunderstand, it will still be a lovely burnished brown, just not as crisp. They both result in a freshly roasted chicken deserving an A+.

The other secret to a perfectly roasted and flavorful chicken is purchasing the best possible chicken available to you. By that I mean an organic, free range chicken that is ‘air chilled’. Besides flavor, there are food safety and environmental reasons to avoid the ones chilled with other birds in a huge vat of chlorinated water. You can read more about the difference here. Although ‘air chilled’ chickens are still sprayed with a fine mist of chlorinated water in the beginning, they don’t sit in it. That liquid can account for 2 to 12% of the chicken’s weight, thus diluting their flavor. And who wants to pay for chlorinated water? It’s what you see in the bottom of the pre-packaged chickens.

Any form of brining requires some advance planning. Ideally the chicken should brine for 24 hours (I’ve left them as long as 72 hours), but at least 6 hours for the best results.

Years ago, when brining first became ‘the thing’, I would prepare a liquid wet salty brine for my turkey and chickens. It required gallons of liquid (in the case of a turkey) and an ice chest (often full of bags of ice) on the back porch. Unfortunately it also frequently resulted in a spilled liquid mess on the kitchen floor. Then I read about the Zuni Cafe method. The Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco, famous for its roasted chicken. There is no liquid required in their recipe, just a kosher salt rub and your preferred seasoning (mine is always Herbes de Provence) and an overnight (or two or three) stay on a rack, uncovered in the fridge. Yippee! No spilled mess. I still often use this method and you can read more about it in a post from 2019 here.

Perfect Roast Chicken

The Perfect Dry Brined Roast Chicken

When it emerges from the fridge it looks like a wizened wrinkled century old chicken, don’t worry about it.

Then, a few months ago, I read about roasting a whole buttermilk brined chicken. Samin Nosrat writes about this technique in her book Salt Fat Acid Heat. Buttermilk has long been used to improve the flavor of fried chicken but I had never thought to use the method on a whole chicken. Don’t worry, there is no need to pull out that ice chest. You only need a cup or two of buttermilk and a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt. I simply mix the buttermilk and salt in a gallon zip lock bag, plop in the chicken, close up the bag, smush it around (put the bag in a bowl in case there are leaks) and place it in the fridge for a few hours to a few days. You can add seasonings if you want.

I found this brining mix at my favorite spice pervader, the Oaktown Spice Shop. It’s intended for that big liquid brine I mentioned in the beginning, but I simply add a couple of tablespoons to the buttermilk. It works great.

Smoky Brine

Smoky Brine

The skin comes out a wonderful burnished brown due to the caramelization of the sugars in the buttermilk. it’s not quite as crisp as the dry brined method but still wonderful.

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Here’s the fantastic thing about the buttermilk brined chicken…the leftovers. “What?” you say. Well, do you know how those rotisserie chickens you get at the store are quite acceptable when warm the first day, but the leftovers are almost always dry and tasteless? The leftover buttermilk brined chicken is still moist and delicious, even two days later. Even the breast meat!

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Brined Roast Chicken

For a dry brine:

  • Remove the chicken from its packaging and dry with paper towels (never rinse)
  • Rub the chicken with 2 – 4 tablespoons of kosher salt, all over. Place in a small pan, on a rack, breast up, uncovered, in the fridge. You can also rub with any other seasonings you may favor at the same time as the salt…cumin, herbes de Provence, chili powder, sumac, etc.
  • Leave undisturbed for at least 6 hours but as long as 72

For a buttermilk brine:

  • Dissolve 2 – 4 tablespoons of kosher salt in 1 to 2 cups of buttermilk in a gallon plastic bag.
  • Remove the chicken from its packaging and dry with paper towels (never rinse)
  • Place the chicken in the plastic bag and squeeze to remove as much air as possible. Squish the liquid around the chicken.
  • Please inside a bowl, or in a second bag to catch any leaks, and leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, up to 48. You can turn the bag when you think about it but it isn’t entirely necessary.

For both:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C)
  2. Line your roasting pan with foil to catch spills and oil a rack on which to place the chicken.
  3. Spray or rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil. There is not need to clean off the salt or buttermilk.
  4. Place the chicken, breast side down, on the rack and roast for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes turn the chicken breast side up, continue to roast for another 30-40 minutes until a leg moves easily in the socket and juices run clear when pierced with a small knife in the thickest part of the thigh.
  6. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

That’s all.

I’ve also cooked brined chickens (both ways) on the BBQ using the beer can method, and in the oven. You don’t need to use beer in that can. Wine works, juice works, also plain water.

You can read more about Beer Can Roast Chicken here with Middle Eastern Flavors, and Beer Can Roast Chicken with Italian Flavors on the BBQ by clicking on the links. When cooking chicken on the BBQ, or in the oven, I often  make two because the leftovers give me additional meals for the week ahead. I recommend you do the same.

Do you have a signature, tried and true meal that you can whip out with your eyes closed?

It’s Fiesta time! By that I mean Fiesta Friday, this week #376. Come on over and join the party. Angie hosts and this week’s co-host is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Fiesta Friday is a virtual (isn’t everything these days) collection of posts from a talented collection of bloggers. You will find tips for home maintenance, weddings, food, crafts and occasionally travel. I am taking this one over to share with the group.

April – Orange Chicken with Cuties

April – Orange Chicken with Cuties

Cuties are seedless mandarin oranges from California. They are available in bags in most grocery stores, a single one provides 35% of your recommended vitamin C and has 45 calories, they pack powerful nutrition into a small self contained package. They are perfect for snacking or putting into a child’s lunchbox. On top of all that, they are incredibly juicy and tasty. I usually have a bowl on the kitchen counter ready for a quick snack attack.

But, have you tried cooking with them?

Roasted Chicken with Cuties

Roasted Chicken with Cuties

When roasted the orange slices are delicious; the ones on top become caramelized and crisp, the ones under the juices soft and sweet…rind an all. You can marinate the chicken overnight or prepare it hours in advance, a nice convenience. But it isn’t necessary if there isn’t time. Do make sure your baking dish is big enough to separate the chicken so it browns properly.

The original inspiration for this dish came from Yotam Ottolengihi’s book Simple. Then I saw an adaptation on the blog Alexandra’s Kitchen for Roasted Chicken with Clementines. I was sold. I made a few alterations of my own to adapt the recipe to what I had on hand. I used bone-in and skin-on thighs. You could use a whole chicken, cut into pieces. In that case monitor the breasts closely so they don’t overcook before the other pieces are done. The original recipe called for fresh fennel, I substituted onion slices as did Alexandra. The original also called for an anise-flavored liqueur, I used an orange flavored one. Alexandra used white wine.

The important ingredients here are the chicken and the orange slices.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of anise scented liqueur, orange scented liqueur, white wine or extra orange juice
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of grainy mustard
  • 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar or honey
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
  • 4 Cutie oranges, unpeeled, and sliced thinly
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 2 – 3 medium onions, peeled and cut lengthwise, then into quarters
Roasted Chicken with Cuties

Roasted Chicken with Cuties

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the wine or liqueur, oil, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar (or honey) and salt. Season with pepper to your taste.
  2. If you are roasting immediately:
    1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
    2. Place the chicken skin side up in a large roasting pan with the orange slices, onion, and thyme. Pour the sauce over and mix everything together. Some of the orange slices should be under the chicken and some on top.
  3. If you are marinating:
    1. Place the chicken with the orange slices, thyme and onion pieces in a large mixing bowl or plastic bag. Pour over the sauce and turn several times to coat. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
    2. When ready to roast, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.
    3. Place the chicken skin side up in a large roasting pan with the orange slices, onion, and thyme. Pour the sauce over and mix everything together. Some of the orange slices should be under the chicken and some on top.
  4. Transfer the baking pan to the oven.
  5. After 30 minutes, check on the chicken. If the skin is browning too quickly, turn the heat down to 400 degrees F and continue roasting until the skin is brown and crisp, probably another 20 to 25 minutes. Ovens vary a lot and the size of your chicken pieces will also determine how much longer you need to cook them. I found 50 minutes at 475 degrees F was enough for the thighs in my oven.
  6. Transfer the chicken, onions and orange slices with juices to a warmed serving platter. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Orange chicken is a big hit in our house and this is a much healthier version.

Roasted Chicken with Cuties

Roasted Chicken with Cuties

I’m going to share this with the folks at the Fiesta Friday virtual blogging party hosted by Angie. Come on over and think about adding your own post. It’s Fiesta Friday #375 this week.

March – Sheet Pan Mushrooms, Spinach and Sausages

March – Sheet Pan Mushrooms, Spinach and Sausages

A sheet-pan dinner, also known as a traybake in other countries, is an easy and time saving option during the week. The NY Times cooking section had a recipe for sheet-pan roasted mushrooms and spinach and I wanted to…

1. add a protein and

2. compare the sheet pan to the air fryer

‘What would happen if I added the spinach for the last few minutes in the air fryer?’ I remembered seeing a recipe for sheet pan sausages and thought ‘What would happen if I added sausages to the mushrooms and spinach in the sheet pan?’

Hmm…It would be a one pan dinner. Something we all could use during the week. 

I am going to share this with the Fiesta Friday group party. It’s Fiesta Friday # 371 and I am the co-host with Angie. Come on over to read the other posts with creative recipes, craft or gardening ideas.

So, here it is from start to finish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms (or any combination that looks interesting and wonderful), trimmed and sliced thickly
  • 1 small onion, sliced into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed (I only used 1 tablespoon for the air fryer)
  • 4 Italian sausages or any kind that are your favorite
  • Kosher slat and freshly ground pepper
  • 5-6 large handfuls of baby spinach – about 2 6-oz containers

Method:

  1. In a large bowl toss the mushrooms, onion, garlic with the olive oil until everything is evenly coated

For the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Spread the mushrooms and onion on the lined pan, nestle the sausages among them. After 10 minutes, turn the sausages over.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes total.
  4. Then add the spinach to the sheet pan (if not using sausages you may want to add a bit more oil to coat the spinach), tossing with the mushrooms and roast until wilted, about 5 more minutes total. Turn and toss the spinach and mushrooms after 3 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: we found that the sausages added enough additional oil that none was needed.

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages – before

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages

Mushrooms, onion, and sausages – after

For the air fryer: 

  1. Set the air fryer to 370 degrees F for 20 minutes (see my post about air fryer mushrooms here)
  2. After 15 minutes add the spinach and toss to combine, you may need to add a spritz of olive oil.
  3. After 3 minutes, toss again.

I didn’t use the sausages in the air fryer although there is no reason they wouldn’t work.

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

And here are the ones cooked on the sheet pan:

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Both methods were easy and resulted in a delicious side dish or meal. My husband preferred the sheet pan dinner, he found the mushrooms meatier. I liked the slight crispness and lighter air fryer dinner. Without the sausages this would make a delicious vegetarian/vegan dinner, serve it with polenta or another starch. Leftover mushrooms and spinach made a lovely filling for an omelet.

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Air fryer spinach and mushrooms

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

Sheet pan spinach and mushrooms with sausages

February – Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

February – Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Melissa Clark of the NY Times calls this recipe “a poem in a bowl”. I must agree that it is certainly delicious and a little different. It gets it’s spiciness from fresh ginger, red-pepper flakes, and cumin. A squeeze of lemon at the end adds a welcome freshness.

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

If you have home made chicken stock in your freezer, this is the place to use it. If not, a good quality boxed stock will substitute. To make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock and leave out the chicken. It’s still very healthy with all those beans and veggies.

I modified her recipe slightly as I didn’t have ground turkey or chicken or hand. What I did have is a package of boneless and skinless chicken breasts which I cut into cubes about the same size as the beans. Ms. Clark also suggests sturdy greens such as collards, kale, mustard greens or collard greens. Since I don’t currently have any of those growing in the garden, I substituted chard leaves. I think baby spinach added at the last minute would be just as good. It should still be bright green but a little wilted. I also added a chopped parsnip along with the carrots (not part of the original) just because I love them and there was one languishing in the vegetable crisper.

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 large parsnip, diced
  • 1 bunch of sturdy greens
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. of cubed boneless chicken, breast or thighs, cubed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 quart of chicken stock
  • 1 can of white kidney beans
  • 1 can of cannelloni beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, basil, chives or a combination of them
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat for a minute to warm it up. Add the olive oil and heat slightly until warm. Add the onion, carrot and parsnip. Saute until softening and turning golden brown at the edges. Add a bit of water if things start to burn.
  2. Meanwhile rinse the greens, remove the large ribs and tear or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  3. When the onion is golden, add the tomato paste, the cumin and red pepper flakes to the pot. Saute until the paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger and salt. Saute until the chicken starts to brown in spots.
  4. Add the stock and beans. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the soup looks thick and flavorful, about 15 to 25 minutes. You can mash some of the beans into the soup if you want it to be thicker, leave them whole for a brothier soup.
  5. Add the greens to the pot and simmer until soft. The time will depend on the toughness of the leaves.
  6. Add a little water if the broth gets too thick and reduced.
  7. Stir the herbs and lemon juice into the pot. Taste and add more salt, cumin or lemon juice if needed.
  8. Serve topped with a drizzle of more olive oil and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

Spicy White Bean Soup with Chicken

I’m taking this soup to the celebration at Angie’s for Fiesta Friday #369. I think it will be welcome with the cold winter weather in mush of the U.S. right now. Click on the link to see all the wonderful posts collected to party on with Angie at the Fiesta.

You’ll also find this and other posts with ideas for Sunday Soup-like dishes at Kahakai Kitchen: Souper Sunday.

Come on over and check them out.

Souper Sundays

This recipe would be suitable for phase 1 of the 30 day metabolic diet.

January – Spicy Thai Influenced Chicken Thighs

January – Spicy Thai Influenced Chicken Thighs

Spicy chicken thighs redolent with ginger, garlic, lime juice, chili paste and coconut milk. Oh my! These are fantastic. Use the leftovers in the can of coconut milk to make coconut rice, rice cooked in coconut milk and water. I cannot say enough about this combination, yummy.

Thai Inspired Roast Chicken

Thai Inspired Roast Chicken

 

Spicy Thai Influenced Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs trimmed of any excess fat or skin (you could also use breasts in this menu, bone-in and skin-on preferred)
  • 3″ piece of ginger, grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, grated
  • 3/4 cup of coconut milk, low or full fat
  • 1/4 cup of hot chili paste, use less depending on heat and sensitivity
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • 2 T of brown sugar (optional, I did not use)
  • 1 T of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, mint or a combination – for serving

Method:

  1. Combine the ginger, garlic, chili paste, lime juice, sugar (if using), and salt in a bowl with the coconut milk. Whisk or stir to mix. Pour the marinade over the chicken in a bowl or plastic zip lock bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinate, shaking them gently to remove any excess. Place the chicken thighs on a parchment or foil lined lined sheet pan. Bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on your oven and the size of the thighs, or until the skin is brown and the juices run clear.
  4. You can bring any remaining marinade to a boil in a small saucepan, simmer for a few minutes and use as a sauce.
  5. Garnish with cilantro, mint or a combination.
Thai Inspired Roast Chicken

Thai Inspired Roast Chicken

I am taking these over to the folks at Fiesta Friday to share at the virtual blogging party. It’s Fiesta Friday #364 hosted by Angie and cohosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love

Come on over, click on the link to Fiesta Friday and read all the blogging post recipes, craft ideas, and decorating tips.

Suitable for phase 3 of the 30 Day Metabolic Diet, remove the chicken skin before serving.

Thai Inspired Roast Chicken

Thai Inspired Roast Chicken