Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pink Lemonade Chicken....For Real!

I first published this recipe on blogcritics as Pink Lemonade Chicken!.

I know, you’re thinking, “what??!!”  Bear with me while I explain.  I love roasted chicken; I really think a well caramelized, tender, juicy roasted chicken with some simple herbed potatoes and veggies is the perfect home-cooked meal.  I particularly love the flavor that brining the chicken imparts to the meat.  It brings so much flavor and moistness to the breast meat, so I try to brine regularly and not just save that technique for holidays.  All it takes for chicken is about one day’s forethought and you will have the juiciest, most tender moist and well-seasoned bird you’ve ever made.  If you’re unfamiliar with brining, it’s essentially marinating protein in a solution of liquid, a large volume of salt, herbs and flavorings, acid, and sugar for at least 24 hours prior to cooking.  An important step in the brining process is allowing the protein, in this case the whole chicken, to air dry after you remove it from the brine for at least 8 hours prior to roasting.  This way, your chicken won’t steam in the oven but will brown and roast beautifully.  I use a limitless combination of juices, water, salty and sweet elements to flavor my brine depending on my mood and my protein of choice.  Pink lemonade chicken came about because I took my seven year-old daughter to the store with me.  She was thirsty and grabbed a container of pink lemonade.  After about two drinks, she thought it was too sweet and didn’t want to finish it.  (God Bless her!) When we got home and unpacked our weekly haul from the market, I came across the almost-full bottle and thought I’d try it for an element of the chicken brine.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds in that one of my regular brines for chicken is mostly salt, water, lemons and honey.  So, the pink lemonade covered most of that and added a nice color to the brine that I was hoping would caramelize the chicken skin beautifully when roasting.   It came out gorgeous!  I hope you’ll try this technique and enjoy the best, roasted chicken you’ve ever had!  Go for the lemonade, or try orange juice, apple juice, or even pineapple juice to create a tasty and incredibly moist poultry dish.  My main point is think broadly about your brining options and not to limit yourself to traditional choices.  Go big and get creative!

We loved this roasted chicken with a simple greek salad, that showcased all the wonderful summer vegetables from our local market, and some rosemary and olive oil roasted baby potatoes.  Thank you too to our amazingly generous neighbor, Jane Colson, and her bountiful fig tree for providing the succulent fresh and juicy figs, which were a great sweet counterpart to this platter! A steel-fermented chardonnay was the perfect accompaniment, and we had homemade frozen yogurt with fresh blueberries and toasted almonds for dessert.  Yum yum!  Enjoy!

Brining Liquid:

2 cups Pink Lemonade
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
3 lemons, sliced in half
4 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of parsley
½ cup kosher salt
Handful of whole peppercorns
6 whole juniper berries, smashed
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
½ red onion, cut into chunks 
1 Tbsp sugar

For the Chicken:

1 3-6 pound whole chicken
5 lemons, cut in half
2 small onions, cut into chunks
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a very large zip-lock style bag or bowl.  Be sure all is well mixed and sugar/salt are both dissolved.  Rinse your whole chicken well and discard or otherwise repurpose the innards.  Place chicken in the brine and ensure it’s pretty well covered with the liquid and that the herbs and spices are distributed throughout.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to brine for at least 24 hours.  Remove chicken and discard brining liquid, pat dry and place on a plate covered with paper towels.  Drape more towels over the bird and place back in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before roasting.  When ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the plate and discard all the paper towels.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in a rack in a medium-sized roasting pan.  Place two of the lemons  and the herbs in the center cavity. Rub the skin all over with the oil and then salt, pepper, and paprika  to taste.  Allow to sit on counter to bring closer to room temperature while the oven is preheating to 425 degrees.  Place chicken in the oven at that temperature for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and throw 3 lemons cut into quarters and 2 small onions, cut into chunks, into the bottom of the roasting plan.  Continue roasting bird until internal temperature is 165 degrees (about 17 minutes per pound total roasting time using this method, starting at higher heat).
Periodically, reach in and baste chicken with the pan juice.  If the chicken is getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent for the last part of the roasting time.  Remove from oven and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.  Bon Appetit!

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