Brine that bird Baby!

Brine

(the above picture was from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad but it’s a good representation of what your Brine will look like once you’ve placed in the bird)

Hey there!  It’s the week before the big feast and I am sure alot of you are starting to think about how you’ll prepare your bird this year.  I say Brine it first baby! 🙂

I started along the Brining path, this past year, in an effort to tenderize the little hens we were getting from our friends who’ve been raising chickens the past couple of years.  This summer, we still had a HUGE Turkey in the freezer from last Thanksgiving and I decided I wanted to try and Brine it before I Smoked it.  People, let me tell you….it was SO juicy and delicious!  And typically, I don’t really like Turkey!  Now, if you can Brine it and then Smoke it, great, but if not, it’s still going to be amazing!

Smoking...

(the above picture was also from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad)

I was at the grocery store over the weekend and saw a woman and her husband talking about Brining their Turkey.  The husband didn’t want to deal with it, but she had always wanted to.  I saw her in the next aisle and told her to do it!  I haven’t ever used a bag to do so (which is what they were looking at) and wouldn’t trust it not to break open, so I say, grab the biggest container you have and get at it!  If the temperatures are right, you can carefully leave the container (covered) in the garage for the Brining process.  Disclaimer:  just be sure the liquid stays cold enough the whole time, 38 degrees or less.  You don’t want to make everyone sick on Thanksgiving.

I did a little research for you; I use a big pickle bucket my hubby brought home from work and then place the whole thing in my garage fridge.  (do you have a neighbor with a garage fridge you could borrow a bit of space from?) You can purchase the same type of container, from Home Depot for less than $3.00!  Then you’ll have it for years to come, you can call it “Homers Brining Bucket” because trust me, once you Brine that bird, you’ll never go back! 🙂

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So, you’ll first need to thaw out your bird like you normally do….I like to Brine for at least 24 hours, so plan one extra day in the process.  Grab your big container and add the following to it:

Brine:

(Makes one gallon of brine; you’ll probably need two at least…)

3 lemons, cut in half

1 cup kosher salt  (I used pickling salt the last time!)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

3 (I used roasted) Jalapeños seeds removed

fresh herbs…sage, thyme, oregano, chives etc.

(if fresh is not available, use at least 1 tablespoon of dried basil, oregano & thyme)

1 gallon cold water

Mix everything up together, careful to dissolve the salt & sugar before adding your bird.  Remove your bird from the wrapper and take out the giblets.  (you can save them in a bowl in the fridge to add back into the bird if you want when you bake it)  Rinse the Turkey, inside & out.  Then carefully submerge the bird in the Brining liquid.  It may try to float back up on you, and if so, you can place a heavy sauce pan on top of it to keep it down under the water.  About halfways through the Brining period, grab a long utensil and stir the liquid around the bird.

Over the weekend, I saw a local news channel posted the process of Brining a bird and used a bit different ingredients in their Brine.  As of this blog post, they still haven’t posted the recipe, but you can watch the video here.

Snoopy Thanksgiving

Now we are at T-day; carefully remove the bird from it’s bath, and place inside a clean sink.  Rinse the entire thing with cold water to remove the salt water and excess herbs etc.  I’ve even seen suggestions to soak the bird in cold water for a half hour or so, to help remove some of the salt.  That way your gravy won’t be too salty.  Place into your roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees, for approximately 3 hours.  Follow this process for a bird weighing 16-22 pounds.  After the first hour, baste regularly (every half hour or so) and once the breast meat has reached a temp of 165 degrees, take it out.  Be sure to let it rest before slicing into it.  If you feel, during the process, your skin is getting too dark, cover it with a bit of aluminum foil.  You can also start with it covered, say for the first hour, then remove it for the remaining time.  I didn’t talk about seasoning the bird, hoping that you’ll have that covered okay…but definitely reach out if you need some suggestions.

Braised Potatoes

Looking for a few different ideas of sides etc. to have with your feast?  Check out my post from last year; it contains some great ideas on twists & new classics.  Also, I recently became obsessed with braising Potatoes….what?!?! Yep, they totally rock!  If you want to divert from the traditional mashed potato action, try these.  I got the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and you can find it here.  (you’ll have to register to gain access to the recipe, but it’s worth it, trust me!)

Wine Thanksgiving 2012

Please share this post with family & friends…I would be so “thankful” if you would!

I am hoping that you enjoy a delicious, relaxing holiday with those you love.  If you are headed out on Black Friday, be careful. 🙂

Cheers,  Shawn

Summer of Salads, Chicken…

Smoked Chicken Salad REC

Prior to getting my smoker, Smoked Chicken would be something I would rarely get the opportunity to enjoy, but when I did…oh, I did!  So, this year when we picked up our portion of chickens from our friends in Hugo that raise & process them for us, I knew some of these little babies were going in the smoker!  We had a friend over the night we made them, and I had smoked three chickens, planning for dinner that night and then making BBQ Chicken sandwiches for a family get together the next day.  This friend, whom I treasure, loved the Chicken SO much I was worried he’d eat it all and I wouldn’t have any left for the next day’s festivities!  So awesome!

One thing I love to do when smoking or even baking my chicken, is to brine it the day before.  It helps to make the chicken much more tender and delicious!  The friend that does our chickens for us, shared the following brine recipe I highly recommend!

Brine

Brine Recipe:

Makes one gallon of brine.

3 lemons, cut in half

1 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

3 (I used roasted) Jalapeños seeds removed

fresh herbs…we used lots of lemon thyme, oregano, chives

if fresh is not available, use at least 1 tablespoon of dried basil, oregano & thyme

1 gallon cold water

Use a bucket or container large enough to hold the chicken and the brining liquid.  I actually used a pickle bucket for my three chickens, but if you have a large pasta pot, or even a roasting pan, you can use that too.  Just be sure to get most of the chicken submerged for most of the time.  If you need to go in and move the chicken around, that’s okay too.  Keep your chicken refrigerated & in the brine for 24 hours before cooking if possible.  Once you are ready to cook the chicken, rinse it well under cold water and then add your rub or other seasonings.  Dispose of the brining liquid and clean your hands, counter & etc. well!

chicken on the smoker

BBQ Rub recipe:

1/2 cup paprika

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons mustard powder

1/4 cup chili powder

1/4 cup ground cumin

2 tablespoons black pepper

1/4 cup granulated garlic

2 tablespoons cayenne  (be careful, if you don’t like spicy BBQ, then dial back on this amount)

Jack Daniel's chips

Oh my gosh, can I just tell you about these chips?!?!  A friend of mine recommended these Jack Daniel’s brand wood chips to me, when she heard about my smoker.  I didn’t try them until recently, when I made this chicken actually, and now I want to use them all the time!!! They are GREAT!  They are about twice as expensive as basic chips, but when you are making something special, splurge and get yourself a bag! 🙂

Assorted chips

These WESTERN® BBQ Smoking Chips were what I used initially and I really liked them.  They come in a wide range of ‘flavors’.  I bought this Variety Pack my first time out.

Okay, so I know this post is titled Smoked Chicken, and I realize that not everyone has a smoker.  So, I want to show you a couple of ways you can smoke, without the smoker!  First, I have this Mini Smoker Box from Williams Sonoma and I love to use it on my grill!  It holds a small portion of whatever chips you have, and takes about 5-10 minutes to start smoking, but it works great for steaks, fish, vegetables, burgers & other deliciuosness from your grill!  And, oh my gosh, I totally want this Cast Iron Smoke & Sear Station wouldn’t that be fun!

When I first bought my Western chips, variety box, it had a small smoker tray in it, made specifically for grills.  They have a great video you can watch that shows you how to use the chips here.  And if you don’t want to fuss with any of the above, you can also try using a couple layers of aluminum foil.  The chips may burn up faster, so have a couple back up packs on reserve.  If you are using a smoker, you’ll want to soak the chips before using them, but if you are just using them on the grill, you don’t need to soak them, unless you are grilling something that takes awhile to cook.

Okay, time to get back on track!  This post is supposed to be about #summerofsalads!  Ha! 🙂

Salad Fixin's

So for this salad, you’ll want to gather your favorite greens, and then chop up your Smoked Chicken.  I added Black Beans, fresh roasted Corn-cut from the cob, chopped tomatoes, red bell pepper, hard boiled eggs and finished the salad with a small sprinkling of Parmesan cheese & crumbled Blue Cheese!  (have I mentioned I am a cheese-addict?) Be careful how much Blue Cheese you put on; you don’t want to drown out that smokey Chicken goodness!  Add any combination of “salad fixin’s” you like!  It’s your salad silly!

Smoked Chicken Salad up close

Now look at that beauty!  I hope you’ll try some of my suggestions for “smoking” chicken on your grill soon!  Let me know if you do & share what you tried!

planes

Have a wonderful 4th of July & Happy Birthday America!

Cheers, Shawn