Feta-Brined Roast Chicken with Chimichurri Sauce

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.

DSC_3219That 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!
DSC_3122
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.
DSC_3135

DSC_3149

DSC_3245
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

DSC_3220To 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.
DSC_3225

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.
DSC_3226
DSC_3228
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.
DSC_3230
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.
DSC_3231
Place the pan in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, checking once or twice to spoon the pan juices over the bird.
DSC_3232
The chicken is done when the juices run clear and/or temperature at the thickest parts reaches 165.
DSC_3237
Let chicken rest for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices, a little chimichurri sauce, and vegetables.
DSC_3238

How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?

How about some slightly burned yam fries on the side?


With any luck, you’ll be enjoying both crispy wings and some of the juiciest white meat you’ve ever had. Enjoy!
DSC_3254
DSC_3253

Orzo Cucumber Salad

Let’s talk about a basic salad. One that has the very basic formula of vegetable+grain+lemon juice+olive oil+cheese. Are you with me? I worry that you may be bored with something so simple, something I’m confident you have figured out on your own.

Yet I feel the urge to plug for the very basic salad recipe. There’s something so refreshing about the ability to bring together a satisfying and healthy dish that goes only a few steps beyond bagged salad greens and bottled dressing, something I used to use to fill in the blanks of meals and snacks here and there. I much prefer something like this, don’t you?

Take note: this is another recipe with less than 10 ingredients!

Orzo Cucumber Salad
Version inspired by Real Simple Magazine

3-4 ounces cucumber, chopped
~2 ounces another vegetable, like green pepper, chopped
2 ounces Feta/approx. 1/2 Cup, crumbled
3 small scallions, thinly sliced
1.5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Consider that there are unlimited options for variation here. This other recipe I was considering used sun-dried tomato and red onion. Shallots would work. And if you are fresh out of fresh lemons, champagne or white wine vinegar make sense.

If you're wondering what I am doing with the rest of that sizable green pepper, it is going into this weekend's Super Bowl chili.

If you’re wondering what I am doing with the rest of that sizable green pepper, it is going into this weekend’s Super Bowl chili.


Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain; run under cold water to cool and shake well to remove excess water.

Prepare vegetables:
DSC_6603
Aside: as you know, I made a resolution to take prompter action on my task list. One such task was to have the kitchen knives professional sharpened, something we never had done. We have a honing device, like this:
honer
which you’re supposed to use often, and an old electric sharpener kinda like this that never provided satisfactory results. In my singular experience, it is surprisingly easy to find a traveling knife sharpener who picks up the phone, makes an appointment to come to your house at your convenience, and then accepts payment on a per knife basis. Easy peasy.

I have noticed a huge improvement in some cases. For some reason, scallions had been giving me trouble with the duller chef’s knife, and is where I felt a serious difference and ease in making thin slices.
DSC_6604

In a medium bowl, toss the orzo with the cucumber, Feta, scallions, green pepper, lemon juice, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Mmm feta. Can't I just eat this?

Mmm feta and lemon juice. Can’t I just eat this?


DSC_6611
Enjoy cold or at room temperature.