Have you ever wondered why some roasted chickens turn out more juicy than others? One way to help: Brine the chicken before you cook it. Frugal Family Feast breaks down a brine this week while preparing a meal to feed a family of four for less than $15.
Chef Rich Matthews, instructor at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shared his technique with Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson. Watch the video and read on for the recipe.
Chef Matthews recommends getting a couple of whole chickens on sale, then brining and roasting them with the intent of using the leftover chicken meat for several days in several different recipes.
Brining a chicken may seem intimidating, but it’s really simple. A brine is a salt water solution that you soak the chicken in overnight before you cook it. The brine adds moisture to the meat, imparts some flavor and helps the skin crisp up in the oven.
Chef Matthews started by mixing kosher salt in hot water to help the salt dissolve. After that, he cooled the salt water with ice cubes and cold water, and then squeezed the juice from slices of lemon and lime into the water before adding the slices to the mixture. Finally he added fresh thyme and rosemary that he tore from the stems by hand.
It’s important to use kosher salt in this recipe, because the measurements of salt and water are based on the larger crystals.
Another tip for this recipe: Roast the chickens on a rack in a large roasting pan to allow air to circulate around the chickens and cook them evenly. Roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes per pound, based on the weight of one of the chickens, plus 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer, inserted in the largest part of the thigh but not touching the bone, reads 170 degrees. Whether additional cooking time is needed for two chickens depends on your oven and how close together they are.
You can serve the four breasts from the chickens for one meal, along with some side dishes. Chef Matthews roasted potatoes with some vegetable oil, salt and pepper, and sauteed green beans on the stovetop.
Remove the rest of the chicken from the bones and refrigerate. Use the carcasses to make chicken stock.
Citrus herb brined chicken – courtesy of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
- 2 whole chickens, trussed
- 1 cup (or 6 ounces by weight) kosher salt
- 3 cups hot water
- 4 cups ice cubes
- 4 cups cold water
- 2 lemons, thickly sliced
- 2 limes, thickly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh rosemary, crushed by hand
- ¼ cup fresh thyme, crushed by hand
- ¼ to ½ cup vegetable oil
- salt to taste
- black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- 8 new potatoes, quartered
- 2 cups green beans, trimmed of stems
To prepare chicken:
- Dissolve the kosher salt in the hot water; then add the ice and cold water to chill the mixture. Add the lemons, limes and fresh herbs to the brine. Make sure to put it in a container large enough to hold two chickens.
- Add the chickens and put the container in your refrigerator. The chickens should sit in the brine for at least eight hours, but overnight works best.
- After the brine step is complete, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the chickens from the brine and discard the brine. Dry the chickens with a disposable towel and lightly oil the skin. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the chickens in a roasting pan elevated on a rack.
- Roast for 20 minutes per pound based on the weight of one of the chickens, plus 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (and not touching the bone) reads 170 degrees.
To prepare potatoes and green beans:
- Place the cut potatoes on a baking sheet or in an oven-safe pan. Lightly oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes or until they’re golden.
- Heat a little oil in a saute pan on the stovetop. Add the green beans, salt and pepper to taste, and saute for five to six minutes or until they’re bright green and crisp but tender.
- After the chicken has rested for at least 10 minutes, carve the breast portions from the chickens and serve with the potatoes and green beans.
- Reserve the carcasses and dark meat, separately, for other Frugal Family Feast recipes and for making chicken stock.
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