Brine is a magical thing. Besides its obvious role in pickled vegetables, an overnight brine has the ability to transform your average weekly roast chicken or even your holiday turkey from a bland or dry entrée to a juicy flavor bomb.
That is what I was thinking when I saved the brine from my feta cheese. The cheese was long gone, but it struck me that there had to be a use for that intensely flavored liquid, other than a future down the drain.
Once again, The New York Times Cooking website delivered. A recipe for feta-brined roast chicken, how perfect! Turns out Melissa Clark demonstrated it back in January. Her recipe includes instructions for creating the brine from scratch with chunks of feta cheese. Having some of the actual brine is even better.
What’s my twist? This time of year, it makes sense to make use of fresh greens and herbs and tangy sauces to brighten up rich meats. Herbs are thriving in the garden. I planted the oregano on a hot dry day in May and thought I killed it. Turns out it’s resilient, almost as resilient as the weeds!
Along with parsley and some leftover cilantro, I blended together some quick chimichurri. You can do the same, with any combination of those three herbs, and with or without added heat.
Feta-Brined Roast Chicken
from Melissa Clark of The New York Times
Leftover feta brine (7 oz)
Water to bring the total amount over 4 Cups (3.5 Cups)
2.5 teaspoons salt, divided
1 whole chicken
2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 large or 3 small lemons, including zest
¼ Cup olive oil
To prepare the brine, add feta liquid, additional salt and water to a blender and whiz to combine. Select a container that will allow the chicken to sit mostly submerged in the brine; you can also use a large sealing plastic bag. Pour brine over chicken.
Place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
When ready to cook, discard brine and dry the chicken with paper towels. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
If you are hand-grinding the pepper now, settle in for the long haul! It took me forever to get 2 Tablespoons. Instead, I suggest using an electric spice grinder.
Combine the pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, oregano and the zest of the lemons.
Rub the mixture all over the bird. Cut the lemons in half and place at least 3 halves inside the chicken. Tie the legs together with twine.
While the oven heats to 450 degrees, place an oven-safe skillet on a burner over medium high heat. Turn on your hood vent! Add oil, and once hot, set chicken in pan, breast-side up.
Place the pan in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, checking once or twice to spoon the pan juices over the bird.
The chicken is done when the juices run clear and/or temperature at the thickest parts reaches 165.
Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices, a little chimichurri sauce, and vegetables.
With any luck, you’ll be enjoying both crispy wings and some of the juiciest white meat you’ve ever had. Enjoy!