Neighbor’s Red Poppy
I want a little more excitement in my chicken dishes. Maybe brining will come to my rescue? The way it surely saved my Thanksgiving a few years back – it was so amazingly moist and tasty – my first time roasting a turkey!!! Fourteen pounds of Butterball, I believe. I was very intimidated. I was cooking for 12 friends. I was making the foundational dishes: turkey, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry salad, mashed potatoes and possibly even fried rice – just to be safe. Oh, no pressure or anything!
I used Emeril’s recipe (leaving out the thyme) for brine and it turned out great!!! I remember thinking, “They have no idea I how much I agonized over the gravy…and they love the turkey.” The bird turned out to be the easiest part!!! I kept asking my diners to sample the gravy because I worried they might not like it, but somebody finally said that it was not necessary because the turkey was actually good – not tough or dry. Oh, life’s not fair, but then again, nobody ASKED me to spend 90 minutes stirring the gravy like a maniac. Well, that’s enough reminiscing. I have poultry issues of the moment to dispatch.
It’s very common to brine for “big” occasions, like Thanksgiving or some dinner party when you are serving roasted poultry. But why not brine to fight off the blah of the everyday? My challenge: long, forgotten, freezer-burnt chicken quarters. Too much freezing dries out the chicken. I’m not sure they had much chicken-ness left. No harm in trying to coax it out, though!
So, I brined the chicken overnight.
Brining Solution (for 3 chicken quarters)
- 9 cups of water;
- 1/3 cup of sea salt (table salt is not recommended by the authoritative cooks and I won’t argue);
- 1/4 cup of “raw” sugar.
(If you are curious about the science of brining, Dave Scantland gives a great explanation of the science behind the miracle of salty water on eGullet.) And then of course, I made curry out of the chicken.
One Pot Madras Chicken*
- 2 cups of onion (1 large onion);
- 9 cloves of garlic;
- about 2.5 cubic inches of ginger;
- 2 lbs of potatoes (I sliced 6 smallish – medium Idahos in halves and quarters);
- 5 tablespoons of madras curry powder;**
- 3 glugs of ngouc mam (fish sauce) to taste; and
- 3 chicken quarters, each cut into 3 parts (about 4 lbs);
- dash of sugar;***
- vegetable oil; and
- a very large skillet.
Note that you might want to lower the amount of ginger. I LOVE ginger, and it was very very gingery. I would even wager to say that the ginger factor added quite a bit heat.
* I’ve previously posted instructions for Madras Chicken for the slow cooker, including approximate cost breakdowns, so mea culpas to those who might have read it already. Brown the chicken, about 4 minutes per side. Let the brown bits stuck to the pan stay (it will be your “fond”). Take the chicken pieces out of the pan. Then, brown the curry powder in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (but not olive oil, because you won’t taste it – and it might burn). Then sweat the onions, garlic and ginger. Then add the curry powder. Then the ngouc mam and about two cups of water and scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan. Get it boiling. Add the potatoes and chicken. Add enough water to barely cover about 3/4 of the chicken height. Get it boiling hot. Simmer, simmer, simmer, on very very low for about 90 minutes. Your house will smell GOOD! And very strongly so. If you burn anything in the process, be sure to cut off the burnt parts and return the unburnt portions to the pan. Serve with rice. *** I didn’t add any sugar, but, I think I should have.
I think the brining helped a lot. The chicken was tender and moist – not dry at all – almost falling off the bone. The potatoes are silky smooth, with a little resistance still. Very nice, if I may say so myself!
* Suraj powder is quite inexpensive, if you can get your hands on it – about $1.59 for a POUND! Sold in Canadian supermarkets, I believe.