What is a brine anyway; you may be asking? Well, the best way I can explain it is that it’s a salt-based liquid (with other seasonings) that is used to tenderize and deeply season the chosen meat. It’s most commonly used with whole chickens and turkeys, but can be used on any cut of any meat. The salt changes the structure of the muscle tissue in the meat, and allows is to swell and absorb the water and flavorings. I’ll give you my brine recipe and then show you how to change it to meet your menu needs.
Basic Brine Recipe:
1/2 cup sea salt (use 1/4 cup more if you are using any other salt)
*it’s not as common to use sea salt because it’s more expensive, but it’s what I am sticking with b/c of the amazing flavor it produced!*
10 to 20 or so pepper corns
1/2 onion, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lime, quartered and squeezed (then place into the pot – the rind and all)
2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 dried peppers (in the spanish/mexican cooking isle) OR 1/2 fresh pepper, deseeded & quartered
water to cover
To change this recipe, just make sure you have the salt and water – then add your own ingredients. Some ideas to mix and match would be…
1/2 cup sugar/molasses
1/2 tsp chili flakes
other spices (I’d use no more than 1 Tbl. of each)
shallots, green onions
…you get it, use your imagination!
1. Dissolve salt in 2-3 cups warm water
2. Place chicken in a pot large enough for the bird, seasonings, and water
3. Add all ingredients, leaving water for last
4. Pour enough water to cover the bird
5. Cover with a lid and place in refrigerator for 24 hours (turn once if you can)
Now for the “fun” part…using this bird. The easiest way to do so would be to drain it out for a few min. (removing all of the “s and then cook it in the oven. Well, I don’t have an oven, so I needed something more creative…and it tasted fantastic!
Butcher your chicken:
1. Cut the bird in half – choose one side of the backbone to cut on (wings and legs will be facing down)
2. Cut off the wings and legs (use your common sense here and cut by the joints so you don’t have to “saw” through all the bones
3. Now the tricky part, but if you have seen a chicken breast, you’ll be fine. Cut just below the ribs and breast, then remove the ribs from the breast. Be careful because they (the ribs) are quite sharp!
4. If you want to use the breast and leg meat right away for my next recipe, remove the skin from both cuts, but do not discard – they will be used for the most amazing soup (Italian Wedding Soup) you will ever eat!
Make the Stock:
1. In a large pot: place all bones, skin, and unused chicken parts.
2. To that, add: 2 carrots (quartered), 1/2 onion (quartered), 2 ribs celery (quartered), 10-ish peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes. *as with the brine, you can add your own ingredients to make this your own special recipe*
3. To the pot, pour enough water to fill pot and cover all ingredients.
4. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 4-6 hours.
5. Strain and use stock. (Italian Wedding Soup is perfect for this stock! See below)
Italian Wedding Soup, edited from The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network
For the meatballs
1 pkg ground turkey
6 links sweet italian sausage, casings taken off
3 pieces bread, cubed small
3 cloves garlic, diced
3/4 c. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 tsp. dried parsley/2 Tbl. fresh, diced
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1. Place the bread, milk, and eggs in a large mixing bowl – combine
2. Take casings off sausage, place that and turkey in that same bowl
3. Add remaining ingredients and mash with hands/potato masher
4. Either – Form into balls and brown on skillet over medium heat until cooked through
5. OR – Form into balls, place on cookie sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 20-30 min or until cooked through
For the Soup
2 Tbl. evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1 c. onion, diced
1/2 c. carrots, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1 c. small pasta (stars, orzo, etc.)
3-4 c. fresh spinach
Chicken stock (about 10-12 cups)
Extra parmesan cheese, to top soup with (it’s really not the same without this!)
1. Place evoo in large pot, turn heat to medium
2. Add onion, celery, and carrots to the pot
3. Cook until onions start to go translucent
4. Add stock and meatballs
5. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, add pasta
6. Once pasta is fully cooked, add spinach
7. Turn heat off, and cover for 5 min.
8. Cool and serve with parmesan cheese – DELISH!