Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Domestic Dark Arts

I am forty six years old, been married to George for nearly 30 years (yes, I was 16,) and a mother for 27 of that...I've cooked some chickens in my day. I am even considered by most to be a good cook. People like to eat my food. For the first time, today, I brined a chicken. This has been a red letter day.

I have a weakness for Cooks Illustrated Magazine. When I need so very much to be frugal, without a penny to spare (which is most of the time,) it is there, all photographic and alluring on the shelf with its $7.95 price tag. It crawls into my cart right through my eye holes. Consequently I only own about three issues. Every issue is worth every penny. The Fall Entertaining issue has been no exception.

There it was, a single slice of apple pie on a pure white plate against a pure white background. The weather had just begun to have a nip of coolness and I was thinking sweaters and north Georgia apples. They might as well have slapped my wrists in handcuffs and led me away for I was powerless against their ways. That issue was in my cart without so much as a guilty thought of how $7.95 could have purchased a double package of mini-wheats that would have fed the kids breakfast for two weeks.

Two weeks later I had to go sit in the courtroom with Jonathan who was appearing as the star of his personal life drama and giving answer regarding his first car accident. If Jon were my first child I would have been full of butterflies and sitting on the edge of my seat. He has the good fortune of being baby number four. I have long dispensed with the yelling and the finger pointing. The boys have had so many tickets, accidents, and even a night in jail, that I now have only one thing to say: Thank you Lord for wrapping your strong arms around him. So consequently I needed something to read while I put in my time with Jon, completely oblivious to anything in the courtroom. Cooks Illustrated, and there it was on page four, "Better Roast Chicken and Vegetables."

This person, Sarah Wilson, had decided to get the skinny on the very best method of roasting a chicken and vegetables. I'm sure that she is like twenty four. What could she possibly have to say on the topic. She only just had her braces removed. Oh, Sarah knows chicken. So much so that the issue of brining was not even in question, merely how much salt and sugar to add. She spoke as if brining were as common knowledge as whisking an egg if you want it scrambled. I have known many wonderful cooks in my day, no one has ever even spoken of brining to me. What else has the world forgotten to tell me? What other life changing knowledge is in the minds of so many others and still a well kept secret from me?

So from little miss Sarah I learned brining and to crank the oven temperature to 400 degrees, not 350. As a little twist on the routine roasting she says...are you ready? We are supposed to put the chicken on its side to roast. Half way through put it on its other side. Sarah is a genius. That bird came out dripping in juices and the skin was crispy and golden brown like none that has ever spent an hour in my oven before. I went so far as to brine one bird and not the other. After a few bites of the brined bird the kids refused to eat what they called "the boring bird." We will never be the same. You should try it.

Here is the brine recipe: (Soak bird in it for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator, longer for more flavor.) http://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/ND01_ISBriningbasics.pdf
1 gallon h20
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/1/2 c. salt
(I snuck in a cup of honey, not to be outdone. I know that I could teach young Sara a thing or two.)
5 cloves of garlic minced

Another thing. Sarah says roast the veggies after you are completely done with the chicken. Oh no, never, I take issue, they will go in with the bird. Some things cannot be improved upon.

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