This story is about life transitions, not getting things done, and making flavorful meat (sounds interesting right?), and it starts with: So I bought some chicken on Saturday. It was a lovely, sunny, Saturday morning that made chicken feel in the perfect order of things. All of my roommates were out of town and I was looking forward to a nice afternoon of quiet working, blogging, and hair-salonning (it’s not a word, but it should be!) that would end with chicken-roasting. But life took its own course and decided otherwise. My quiet afternoon of nice little things turned into a streak of workaholism as I started having sudden revelations on my current research topic. Sunday rolled around and I decided to put my beautiful little chicken thighs, who had patiently awaited their fate, in a brine to give them extra tenderness and flavor, to be cooked for lunch.
Now let me stop and make a “Brining” cooking-tip parenthesis. I’ve never been much of a meat-cooking expert, but ever since I’ve started brining meats and poultry, I’ve discovered a whole new world of palate pleasures. Brining consists in leaving your meat, fish or poultry in a salt and water solution for several hours so that they absorb more water and hold moisture when they cook. So long hard, chewy steaks – hello tender, juicy cuts! You can also add spices and herbs to the brine for your meats to absorb flavor. It’s very simple and just requires some planning ahead depending on what you are making. Here’s a little list of how long to brine your meats (careful not to overbrine or you’ll end up with “pickled” meat that tastes like its out of a can):
- Whole chicken: 6 to 12 hours
- Chicken pieces (thighs, legs, wings): 1 to 3 hours
- Chicken breasts: 4 to 8 hours
- Whole Turkey: 24 hours
- Pork chops: 2 to 6 hours
- Red meat (lean steak): 1-2 hours
- Fish fillets: 1/2 hour to 1 hour
To make a brine, the classic ratio of salt to water is 1 tablespoon of table salt to 1 cup of water. On top of that I generally like to add flavouring such as:
- 1 tablespoon of dried garlic
- A few bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of rosemary, oregano or dried thyme
So it’s Sunday morning, I’m brining and blogging and that’s when I get a call from my Argentinean friends, M and F, who had just moved into a new apartment, ready to start their vie à deux, and needed help painting it. It sounded so grown up, plus I had never painted an appartment before. Free food in exchange for free labor, they said. Dear Chicken, this is not over. I will devour you come dinner time. I drained the chicken thighs and left them in the fridge to be cooked when I got home a few hours later. Or so I thought. Sunday night came, the sun set and there we were, enjoying a bottle of wine on the balcony of M and F’s new apartment after a hard day’s work of painting. A bottle of wine turned into “Let’s order some pizzas for dinner”, which turned into “Damn is it 11 already?”. Good god woman, stop procrastinating and get that chicken in the oven already!
So there I was, roasting chicken at midnight on a Sunday night, thinking about the fact that my friends had signed a 30 months lease on a new appartment and that we’re either all getting old or just plain crazy (they’re probably getting old, I’m the crazy one roasting stuff way past my bedtime).
Allright, enough with my life transition stories. Put on your chef’s hat and follow this delicious super-easy recipe. The balsamic vinegar caramelizes in the oven and gives the chicken a sweet and pungent taste, while the rosemary… well do I need to explain the deliciousness of the combination of rosemary, onions and chicken? Remember to make leftovers to have a chickenstravaganza week: chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken with a veggie stir fry, chicken quiche, chicken lettuce-wraps…
Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Cherry Tomatoes
Makes 6 servings
6 pieces (about 2lbs, or 1kg) of bone-on, skin-on chicken thighs
5 pearl onions
15 cherry tomatoes
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 twigs of fresh rosemary + a handful to sprinkle on the chicken
Salt and pepper
1. Brine the chicken pieces in 4 cups of water with 4 tablespoons of table salt for 2 to 3 hours. Optional: add dried garlic, bay leaves and herbs to the brine for extra flavoring.
2. Preheat your oven to 410°F (210°C)
3. Pat dry the chicken thighs and set aside on a plate
4. Chop the pearl onions in quarters lengthwise and slice the cherry tomatoes in halves.
5. Display the onions and tomatoes in a baking dish, add the chicken pieces skin side up and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat
6. Place the rosemary sprigs underneath the chicken pieces, coat the skin of the chicken with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a handful of fresh rosemary.
7. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the skin is crispy and browned.
Applaud yourself for having gotten it done, and enjoy it warm and juicy if it’s not 12 am.