Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brined, Bone-in Chicken Breasts

In case you can't tell by now, I love to cook chicken.  I know I've mentioned it a few times, and have posted some of my favorite chicken recipes in the past, and have quite a few more in the works!  However, I know that bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts can present a bit of a problem to someone who is unfamiliar with cooking them.  A couple of the pros of cooking with bone-in meat, are that the meat has more flavor and the meat tends to be more moist; however, one of the cons is that it takes longer to cook, and while the end result is worth it, it is easy to want to cook it for a really long time, with the end result being a dried out, sad piece of meat.  
However, I'm going to share with you a step that I do almost every time I cook a piece of meat that has a bone left in.  

Brine.  A lot of people will just brine when they cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, and while that's great, there is no reason to limit yourself to just brining once per year!  
This is my go-to way of cooking bone-in chicken breasts; the skin gets golden brown and crispy, the meat is delicately flavored, and stays moist!  Brining is such an easy step, and yet makes such a difference, its no wonder that I do it every time I cook this!  
Here's your grocery list for this:
4 C water
2-3 TBS paprika (smoked, if you have it, plain if not!)
4-5 TBS Kosher salt
2-3 tsp of dried rosemary, thyme and oregano
3 Bay leaves
1 C ice*
2-3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Yep.  That's it.  To start with, mix the first paprika, salt, herbs, and water in a medium saucepan.  Keep over medium heat just until everything is dissolved, then turn the heat off.  If you're in a rush, you can add the ice here to cool the mixture down (adding a hot liquid to raw chicken will start the cooking process, and you don't want to cook the chicken in this mixture, you just want to let the chicken hang out in this liquid!), if you have time, you can just set it aside to cool on its own, or stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours to cool down.

Once your brine has cooled down, put your chicken into a gallon sized baggie (since I'm normally doing this on my own, I put my baggie into a bowl, for some structure, and as an added assurance if the baggie has a hole in it.  That way, there isn't chicken-y liquid all over my counter.)
Can you guess what's coming next?  Yep, you guessed it.  Pour the brine over the chicken, and squeeze the extra air out, making sure that the chicken is at least 90% covered by the water.  Set this in the fridge, for at least 4 hours, but can be done over night (or first thing in the morning, and left in the fridge while you're at work!).  

Once you're ready to cook it, pull the chicken out of the brine, and pour it out.  Pat your chicken dry with paper towels, and preheat the oven to 425*.  This is important, because wet skin won't brown, it will just steam.  So make sure your skin is dry, folks!! 

Now then, in a heavy bottom, oven safe pan (I use cast iron), over medium high heat, add a TBS of vegetable oil and a TBS of butter until the oil is shimmering, and add the chicken to the pan, skin side down.  Now then, leave the chicken alone.  Don't touch it.  I know, I know, you're dying to see what's going on!  There are going to be some sounds.  Lots of sizzling, lots of popping.  Don't touch it!  Let this chicken brown for about 7 minutes before touching it.  If you try to turn the chicken over, and it sticks to the pan, leave it alone for another couple of minutes.  This is the meats way of telling you that its not ready to be flipped yet.  If you try to force it, the skin will tear, and there's no need for that.  

After a few minutes, this is what you'll have.  Once you flip it over, just slide your pan into the oven for 40 minutes.  The tops will continue to brown slightly in the oven, the remainder of the heat that the pan is holding on to will brown the underside of the chicken while the heat from the oven cooks the chicken all of the way through.

This is the chicken just out of the oven.  Sorry for the foggy picture, there was a lot of steam!  The skin is a beautiful brown, crunchy and keeps the moisture in the chicken.  The brining is an added insurance that your chicken will be nice and moist, and adds a subtle herb-y flavor.  The brine isn't a marinade.  Don't confuse the two.  But I use this brine every time I cook bone-in chicken, or bone-in, thick cut pork chops.  I use the exact same cooking process. 

Look how moist this chicken is!!  Please try this, you won't be disappointed!  So good!