If you’ve read this blog for more than a nanosecond, you probably know two things:
1. I would live in a box underneath the Eiffel Tower just to have a Paris zip code.
2. I am woefully unsuccessful when it comes to roast chicken.
I rub it with oil. I caress it with butter. I flip it while it’s cooking. I shove things up its butt. What I end up with is a house that smells amazing, a bird that looks amazing, and meat that tastes… meh. Don’t get me wrong, that meat is perfect for things like Mustard Chicken Salad and other dishes requiring cooked chicken- it’s WAY better than canned, and it’s cheaper than a store-bought poulet roti, but as a stand-alone meal centerpiece I am less than impressed. I’m a chicken brat.
And so, I took a page from my Ultimate Thanksgiving Playbook (yes, I have an actual binder devoted to the art of cooking Thanksgiving dinner… nerd alert!) and brined a chicken. For a long time, I knew it would come to this. I knew some day I would have to make peace with the idea that the only way I would achieve roast chicken nirvana would be to brine that damn bird.
So brine it I did.
And now? Meet the Food Hound and Brined Roast Chicken. Besties for life.
I mean, this wasn’t just acceptable chicken. This was amazeballs chicken. Chicken that makes me excited for leftovers. The Tom Brady of the roasted poultry world (because I’m sure he smells as delicious as he looks sitting there all handsome in his post-game press conferences).
The brining might seems high-maintenance, but it’s the easiest brine ev-ah with salt, pepper, WINE, garlic, rosemary and citrus, which you just slice- you don’t even have to juice it. Then you toss the chickens in, and they get all sexy in your fridge while you hang out with friends and drink way too much wine. The next night you just drain them, stuff them with rosemary, and throw them in the oven. When it’s done, you can be super-classy (like me) and just cut off the parts you want with kitchen shears rather than carve it. Who carves a chicken, seriously?
What you end up with is incredibly juicy chicken that tastes like everything you tossed in that brine (hello, wine!). You don’t get this kind of flavor from massaging compound butter into the thighs or other time-consuming, messy things I’ve tried in years past. Nope, Brined Roast Chicken = the only way to get meat that will make your toes curl.
And now, croutons. Buckle your five-point restraint systems.
I love homemade croutons. Take cubes of rustic bread, toss them in butter, brown them in a pan. Great stuff. But what I did last night was pure heaven. Once the chickens are cooked and you have a pan full of rich, decadent pan drippings, you toss cubed olive bread in it (with some melted butter because… why not?) and then throw the pan back in the oven for about 20 minutes. If that isn’t the best way to pass time while the chicken rests, then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
What you remove from the oven is a pan full of toasted olive bread cubes that are crispy on the outside but dense and chewy on the inside. Why? Because you just roasted them in two kinds of fat. There, I said it. Fat. Savory brine-scented pan juice + melted butter + savory brine-scented chicken fat is a perfect 10. In fact, it’s a 14.
Not only did I discover the best way to roast chicken in the whole wide world, but I found the ultimate side dish with those perfect little pieces of olive bread heaven. I can’t wait to ceremoniously remove all other roasted chicken recipes from my collection. Brined Roast Chicken with Olive Bread Croutons, it’s you and me 4 life.
- 3 quarts + 3 cups (15 cups) tepid water
- 2 c dry white wine
- 3 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
- ½ c kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 T coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- 1 orange, thinly sliced
- 9 rosemary sprigs
- Two (4½-pound) chickens
- 1 pound olive bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (rosemary-garlic bread is also SO GOOD in this)
- 2 T melted butter
- In a brining bag, combine the water, wine, garlic, salt, 2 T pepper, lemons, orange, and 3 rosemary sprigs. (Alternatively you can use a HUGE pot, but I don't think that would fit in most refrigerators.) Stir to dissolve the salt. Put the chickens in the brine, breast sides down. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry. Put the chickens in a roasting pan, breast sides up. Stuff the remaining 6 rosemary sprigs in the cavities and tie the legs together. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Add ½ c water to the pan and roast at 375 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes longer, rotating the pan, until the juices run clear.
- Lift the chickens and tilt them to let the cavity juices run into the pan. Transfer the chickens to a carving board and keep warm. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees again. Add the olive bread cubes and the butter to the pan and toss well. Spread the bread in an even layer and bake for about 20 minutes, until crisp on top and moist underneath. Serve the chicken with croutons.