Pickle Juice Brined Chicken

Daisy waits for the chicken to be done

I don’t know about you but when I eat the last pickle in the jar, it hurts me to let all that juice go down the drain. I’ve taken to saving it and using it as a brine on chicken. It is great as a base for fried chicken (especially if you’re like me and a fan of Chick-fil-a’s chicken but not their politics). It doesn’t make pickle chicken, though. There is a nice tang, like what you get from a buttermilk soak. I wanted to see if I could translate it to grilled or roasted chicken as well.

I used one of my favorite meat rubs (Emeril’s Rustic Rub) but any kind you have that includes salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper would be delicious.

Pickle Brined Roast Chicken

4 lb whole chicken
2 cups pickle juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry rub, plus additional

Stir together the pickle juice, sugar and rub. Whisk until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Place the chicken and liquid in a zip top bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

For grilling: Heat up a chimney full of coals and pour them in a half circle around the edge of your grill.

For the oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat an ovenproof skillet (I use cast iron) over medium high heat.

Remove chicken from the brine. Dry off the chicken and then coat with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with your dry rub.

For grilling: Place the chicken breast side up on the grill and and cook over indirect heat for about an hour or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

For the oven: Place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Set the chicken breast side down the hot pan and allow it cook for 10 minutes to brown. Flip the chicken over and transfer it right into the oven. Cook for 60 minutes in the oven or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

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Quesadillas con Huevos

Wanting something different for breakfast, I decided to try to make a breakfast quesadilla. I’ve done breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs but I wanted my eggs soft cooked this time. I love black beans, so I knew those were going on it and I could use them to corral the egg. I used part of a drained can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilis instead of salsa, so the final result had the added benefit of helping my girlfriend, who woke up with a congested head, open up her sinuses.

Quesadillas con Huevos

4 flour tortillas
1 can black beans
1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup salsa, drained
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly toast tortillas over the stove burner. Warm the black beans in a saucepan.

Place two tortillas down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on a layer of pepper jack cheese. Make a ring with some drained black beans. Sprinkle over the ring the salsa. Carefully break one egg in each of the rings. Sprinkle on a little more cheese.

Put the baking sheet in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove long enough to sprinkle on more cheese and place the remaining tortillas on top of the filled side. Bake for 3-5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for up to two minutes more to make the top tortilla crunchy. If you want your eggs runny, instead of just soft, reduce the second bake time to 3 minutes.

Place onto large plates and cut into quarters. Serve with sour cream and additional salsa, if desired.

Quick Creamy Lemon Salt Pasta

I’m all for taking my time in cooking but sometimes you just want to eat. The cream sauce comes together in the time it takes to bring the pasta water to a boil and cook it, so you have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes.

I typically make double the amount of lemon salt I need (for recipes like these) and keep it in an airtight container. Also, when I grill chicken, I usually do more than just what is needed for dinner and pick the some of the meat off the bone and store it in the freezer in 1 cup measurements in zip top bags. This recipe used 1 cup of precooked chicken.

1 cup pasta (I used Farfalle – bowtie)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon salt
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup already cooked chicken (about 1 breast)

Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.

In a heavy skillet combine the cream, butter and salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to low. Simmer for five to ten minutes or until sauce has thickened. Add in parsley. Pour over cooked pasta and add cheese and chicken and stir well. Serve once cheese is melted.

Simple Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those comfort meals. It comes together pretty quickly, so is perfect for a weeknight meal and has just enough good stuff in it to make your body happy as well as your soul.

1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup bread crumbs or crushed saltines

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix all meatloaf ingredients well. Shape into a loaf and place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake one hour.

Some people like a glaze on top of their meatloaf (I use the leftovers to make sandwiches and cover those with ketchup so I generally don’t glaze it). Here is a basic recipe for a glaze:

1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Combine the ketchup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and honey. Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes.

Apple Cider Brined Roasted Chicken

This chicken is tangy and sweet and stays nice and juicy because of the brine. The recipe is adapted from a dish served at 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Vermont.

chicken

I served it with a side dish of apples, bacon and sweet potato that I’ll post tomorrow.

Apple Cider Brined Roasted Chicken

6 cups (1.5 quarts) apple cider
1/3 cup coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 tablespoons honey
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cups ice cubes
2 cups cold water
10 lbs chicken leg quarters
Olive oil to coat

Glaze

⅓ cup honey
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large pot (big enough to hold 10lbs of chicken), combine cider, salt, peppercorns, garlic, honey and rosemary and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Stir in ice cubes and cold water. 

Place chicken pieces snugly in the the pot with the cooled brine to cover completely. Set a plate on top to keep the chicken under the surface of the brine. Set in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 12. Do not over brine, as this can make the chicken too salty.

Remove chicken from brine and pat chicken dry with paper towel. Place on baking racks over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered, for at least an hour and as long as 4.

When ready to roast chicken, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat chicken pieces dry once again with paper towel. Coat chicken skin lightly with olive oil and arrange them in a large roasting pan.

Roast chicken for 30-45 minutes or until light golden brown.

While chicken is roasting, in a small pan, whisk together honey and apple cider vinegar and then add chopped rosemary. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, at a gentle simmer, until reduced in volume by about one-half and is lightly syrupy, such that it clings to a pastry brush but is still liquid enough to brush, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven and turn oven to broil with oven rack in position such that chicken will be about 3 inches from element. Brush chicken generously with glaze and return to oven for up to 5 minutes until skin is dark golden brown. Watch carefully.

Serve chicken drizzled with more glaze.

Buttermilk Herbes de Provence Roast Chicken

Nigella Lawson is a domestic goddess and I regularly consult her cookbooks – both for recipe ideas and because her writing/cooking style is a pleasure to read.

Tonight’s dinner was a riff off her Buttermilk Roast Chicken. Instead of the garlic, cumin and maple syrup, I only used herbes de Provence as my seasoning with the buttermilk. As a rule of thumb, the longer you soak the chicken in the buttermilk brine, the better it will be. Her original recipe was for drumsticks and for 2 hours – with a whole chicken, I recommend a minimum of 4 hours or, better yet, overnight.

buttermilk-chicken

Buttermilk Herbes de Provence Roast Chicken

3-5 lb whole chicken
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Cut out the backbone of the chicken and crack the breast bone so it will lay flat. Set aside the backbone for use in stock. Mix together the buttermilk and herbes de Provence. Place the chicken in a gallon zip top bag and pour over the buttermilk mixture. Seal and set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and as long as 24.

About an hour before cooking, remove the chicken from the brine and drain well. Coat the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When ready to cook, cover a roasting pan with foil and set the chicken on it breast side up. Tuck the wing tips under the breasts to keep from overcooking. Roast for 30 minutes before dropping the temperature to 350 degrees F for an additional 30 minutes. Check for doneness (internal temperature should be 165 degrees F for the thighs and 160 degrees F for the breast). Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

As you can see, we ate our chicken with asparagus that I had tossed in olive oil and a little salt and then cooked on a grill pan until tender but still a little crunchy.

Brunch for dinner

Oeufs Mollets Avec Épinards Mornay – The name is all fancy sounding but this is just soft boiled eggs over a bed of spinach and covered in a rich, cheesy sauce. The original is à la Florentine, meaning it is served over cooked spinach, which I detest. So instead, I serve it over fresh spinach leaves. It makes a great brunch meal or, in our case, a luxurious dinner.

This recipe also supposedly caused Julia Child to failed at Le Cordon Bleu because she forgot that oeufs mollets meant soft boiled eggs.

The eggs tore a bit when I shelled them, so the picture is of the pretty gratin dish plus the heaping amount of spinach.

The eggs tore a bit when I shelled them, so the picture is of the golden browned breadcrumbs in the gratin dish plus the heaping amount of spinach. Trust me, the eggs are under there!

Oeufs Mollets Avec Épinards Mornay

Mornay Sauce:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cold milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 oz Gruyere or cheddar cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

4 eggs
1/4 cup Gruyere or cheddar cheese (whatever you used above)
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
2 lbs fresh spinach leaves

Melt the butter with the flour in a small saucepan to make a light roux. Stir for 5 minutes over medium heat before slowly whisking in the milk. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly add the cream to the pan and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheese, stirring constantly until melted.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil and place in the eggs. Cook for 5 minutes for soft boiled. Remove to an ice bath and, as soon as you can safely handle them, carefully peel them without breaking them. I find peeling them under running water can help get the shell off more easily.

Coat a gratin dish with butter. Place the eggs in the gratin and pour the sauce over. Sprinkle on cheese and breadcrumbs and place under the broiler. Keep an eye on it but in a couple of minutes it should be golden brown and done.

Wash the spinach and drain well. Place on the plate and spoon over the eggs and cheese. Devour!

You notice that no where do I call this a salad! Regular readers of my blog know my philosophy is that salad is what dinner had for lunch. Whatever you call it, this dish is easy elegance and darn tasty to boot!