Chicken in an Herb Bath

August 14, 2010

I just made up that name. Though it seems fitting for what I’m going to write about, I’m guessing there’s some other common name out there. Surely someone will fill me in if there is…

Perhaps I should call it Plumber’s Chicken. Here’s why: The controller on our submersible pump decided to go haywire last week, so the plumber that installed it has been by a few times troubleshooting and replacing various parts. Between discourses on travel, immigration (he has a Philippine wife), and food, we seem to spend as much time talking as he does working. During his last visit, he told us about his method for “brining” chicken, something I had never tried. Even after trying his recipe, I still don’t think I’ve “brined” a chicken. Wikipedia agrees.

The plumber’s method: take a whole chicken, put it in a Ziplock with fresh herbs, cover it with water and seal it up. After two days in the refrigerator, drain the water and herbs and roast or barbecue as you usually would.

It’s rare that my husband and I cook a bird without marinating it, but we’ve never let it “bathe” for two days, and never in water. I couldn’t wait to give it a try.  All I had on hand were frozen chicken breasts, which I promptly defrosted and submerged in rosemary, basil and water. Two days later, we grilled them up. Wow. The meat was perfectly infused with the herb flavors. And it was moist, or at least moister than chicken breasts usually are.

Next, we experimented on a whole chicken. I harvested a good amount of fresh rosemary and basil from the garden, which I crushed in my hands to help release the flavors. The chicken went into the gallon Ziplock first, then 1/3 of the herbs into the cavity, the rest loose in the bag, and then a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves I’d smashed with a mallet. I topped it off with cold water.

Chicken & Herb Bath

Two days later, Stefano grilled it up.

Grill, baby, grill!

Although the results were pleasing, I couldn’t taste the herb flavors anywhere near as much as I could in the chicken breasts. (Seems reasonable, given the thinner cut of meat.) Still, with a side of grilled mango, this herb-bath chicken made a nice dinner, and the leftovers were the perfect addition to a Bejeweled Summer Salad (recipe to follow).

I’m not done experimenting with this. First, I like what Wikipedia had to say about brining, and I’d like to add some salt to the bath. Online, there were plenty of warnings not to let your chicken brine for more than a few hours – which is not enough for the herbs. I figure I’ll either use a lot less salt or add the salt during the last few hours. Maybe the brining process will help infuse the herb essences deeper into the meat. I’d also like to experiment with different liquids. Beer perhaps? White wine? Maybe toss in a quartered lemon?

I’ll let you know how it goes. And if any readers have experience with any of these processes, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Ciao ciao ~