Friday, December 25, 2009

An Experiment in Brining--

I was recently enthralled watching Anne Burrell brine a monstrous Tgiving turkey. It fell in line with a lot of reading I've been doing about brining and how many swear it's the only way to make a moist chicken any more. However, when it's just two of you for Christmas, it seems wasteful to prepare a whole turkey. Thus, I picked up some Cornish game hens this year for my little "experiment."

I will have to tell you that this was THE most succulent & flavorful chicken I have ever put in my mouth as well as the hubs and I's fav part of our Christmas meal. Trussing, not my strong suite to start with, was like a day at the rodeo. These suckers were lucky they made it into the roasting pan, much less the oven! (that's why you see an "X" on the back of one of the hens, it's leg was broken and it wasn't cooperating, so I did some "creative trussing" - I also would've put Ralphie's dad to shame w/the artfully crafted blue streak coming out of my mouth........but, I digress...........)

Rule of thumb(s?) that I've gathered is approx. 1 cup table salt for every gallon of water. Do not brine for less than 1/2 and hour and do not use more than 2 gallons of water. It's best to start w/scalding hot water so that it dissolves the salt and releases the essential oils in whatever herbs and spices you choose to use. Use a non-reactive (non-aluminum) dish or container to brine in. Ziplock bags work great, as do stainless dutch ovens (which I used). You will want the water to cool before placing your meat in it as the heat puts the process of osmosis that's at work into overdrive and your chicken/poultry will end up tasting like ham.

For my hens- I used:

1 c. table salt
1 gallon water
1/2 a packet of Herbs for Poultry- 1/2 bouquet of thyme, 1 thick sprig rosemary, 1 large sage leaf
1 tbsp cracked telicherry peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, whole, crushed

I only brined the hens for 90 minutes as I wanted to play it on the safe side, but you can do up to 2 hours with smaller fowl. Stuffed them w/sausage dressing, laid them on a bed of sliced onion. Roasted for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes- basted w/butter at 350 for an hour, then did 400 for the last 15 minutes (basting in the middle).


Btw- Sasha wanted me to tell everyone- Merry Christmas and save some chicken for me!

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