Wednesday January 22, 2014 | 07:17 AM

I call it a super poultry brine, the ultimate tool that gives whole birds a kind of natural intense cure, bringing out the succulence of moistness and tenderness.  Different from the brine that I wrote about in an earlier post (October 16, 2013), this one is more intense and requires some cooking time and a prolonged period in which it needs to cool down.

The method is adapted from the star chef of French Laundry fame in the Napa Valley, Thomas Keller.  It’s based on the brine that he offers in his excellent work, Ad Hoc, a great cookbook geared for home cooks.

What makes this brine different is that the mixture of water, kosher salt, lemons, garlic and herbs is brought to a boil and then allowed to cool down completely.  This could take about 6 hours if left at room temperature.  Given that our weather is so cold, you could put the pot of brine, covered, outside on a protected deck or patio, and it will cool down much faster. 

What you can’t do is use it even at a lukewarm stage because it could start to cook the chicken before you intend to.  Keeping chicken at a warm temperature could cause it to go bad, too.

When you’re ready to immerse the chicken in the brine prepare a spot in the refrigerator for a 12 to 24 hour period.

The amount of brine here will be enough for a 6 to 8 pound bird.  The chicken that I brined was a large roaster weighing in at nearly 8 pounds, which I got at Bisson’s and Son’s market in Topsham.  They carry an excellent   natural   chicken from a local producer.


Chicken brine

Adapted from Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller 

Servings: enough for a 6 to 8 pound chicken


4 lemons, halved

12 to 16 whole dried bay leaves

Small bunch parsley

Small bunch thyme

1 small head garlic, halved and flaky skins removed

1/3 cup honey

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) water or enough to cover the chicken 

Combine all the ingredients together in a large stock pot.  Over high heat bring to the boil, stirring until the salt is dissolved.  Lower heat and let simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Allow to stand, uncovered, until completely cool and then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. 

To brine the chicken, clean the bird inside and out and submerge into the prepared brining liquid.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours but not longer than 24.

The super chicken brine

When ready to use, rinse under cold water briefly and wipe dry.  Put the chicken on a plate and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour or longer, uncovered.  The chilling time will result in a very crispy skin when the bird is roasted. 

Crispy and succulent the roast chicken benefits greatly from being super-brined

Brined roast chicken

Servings: 4 to 6

1 6-to 8-pound natural or organic chicken

1 stick butter, at room temperature

3 leeks, roughly chopped, white part only

3 fennel bulbs, trimmed and roughly chopped

White wine or chicken stock as needed


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bring the chicken to room temperature

Add the chopped fennel and leeks to a roasting pan, preferably enameled cast-iron

Rub the softened butter all over the chicken and place the bird over the vegetables.

Put in the oven to roast for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 165 degrees as tested with an instant-read thermometer.  While the bird is roasting baste with the pan juices.  If the vegetable bed gets dry add some wine or stock to moisten. 

When ready to carve, leave the bird in the roasting pan, and as you carve each section rub it around in the gorgeous liquid that has developed in the pan.  Serve with a fine potato pure combined with plenty of butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper.  Glazed carrots in veal stock, butter and a touch of sugar are a nice accompaniment.





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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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