foodie mcfooderson

a home cook with notions & an appetite

tea-brined five-spice roast chicken with spicy sesame cucumber

If you were to buy Mindy Fox’s A Bird in the Oven for one single recipe, this would be the one.  If Mindy or the book sound familiar, you might also remember a Greek Chicken that was pretty good.

I know I’m posting bird #6 for everyone now, but in real life, I’m up to bird #12.  We still talk about this chicken.  Yeah, spoiler alert.  This is that good.  I’m also going to warn you, I tend to get a lot of push-back and looks from people when I mention the “work” required for this bird.  Because you need to start it three-days ahead.  Four, if you need to thaw the bird.

Breathe.  It’s not work-work.  Seriously.  Day 1 is maybe 20 minutes of active work.  Day 2 is 10.  Day 3 is your cooking day.  So all it really take is a little advanced planning.  For a chicken this good, planning something in advance is a super-small price to pay.

You may also notice something a bit off about the bird…yeah, the skin is sitting on top of the breast.  We’ll get to that later.  That’s not the recipe.  That’s an under-seasoned cast-iron skillet.  I assure you it’s only the aesthetics that were impacted.  Taste remained awesome.

This is a brined chicken.  Truth in titling.  And here’s how I worked my Day 1.  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m a morning-putterer.  This means I’m up early and instead of running around and dashing out the door for work, I watch the news, have some coffee and take care of things on my time.  Sometimes it’s laundry and other times it’s prep for dinner.  This brine was easy enough to prep and heat in less than half an hour.  Brine needs to cool before coming into contact with the meat, but that’s what the time spent getting ready for work was able to do.  See, there is such a thing as multi-tasking.  This is what the brine prep looked like:

Looks pretty, doesn’t it?  Smelled wonderful – here’s what was in the brine:

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup loose Lapsange Souchong tea (get this, it’s smokey, wonderful and makes the dish)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise pods (you can see mine are broken, so I guessed)
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 slices fresh ginger (1.5″ long x 1/8″ thick)
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • Do I have to mention the chicken?  Mine was 4 1/2 lbs

While I gathered the rest of the ingredients, I started boiling the water on the stove.  I used my veggie peeler to separate the peel from the orange and made a teabag for the tea from floursack (you could use layers of cheesecloth).  Once the water boiled, I removed it from the heat and threw in all of the brine ingredients except the salt and sugar (used only the orange peel).  I got ready for work.

Before heading out the door, I squeezed the juice from the orange into the brine.  I also removed the tea bag from the brine, squeezing out the last of the smokey tea goodness.  I also trimmed the excess fat from the chicken.  The chicken went into a Ziploc bag along with the brine. into the fridge.  The green is a large plastic bowl I have.  Here it would sit in the fridge for 24 hours.  Later that evening (before bed), I turned the chicken in the bag to ensure it was getting even coverage.

Day two was even less work.  You can see the chicken has taken on the brined look.  I dumped all the brine and towel-dried the bird inside and out.  I set up a drying rack over a roasting pan and placed the bird, uncovered, in the fridge for 24 hours.  This drying gives your skin a chance to really dry out, which leads to a crispier skin.

The day of cooking, I found my cast-iron pan.  One of them, anyway.  The newer one, not the old, well-seasoned one.  I took the chicken out of the fridge, and despite 24-hours of drying out, there was still some dampness to blot up.  I preheated the oven to 450 with the pan in the oven and let it heat for a good 20 minutes after reaching temperature.

Once I knew my pan was fully heated, I took it out of the oven and put my chicken in, bottom side down.  You can see in the first pic how dried out the chicken was getting.  After 20 minutes, the browning started and I flipped over the bird.  You can see where the bottom skin came off.  At this point, I wasn’t too worried because no one sees the bottom of the chicken (save you in this photo).  But 20 minutes later, I flipped the bird again and my breast skin disappeared.   This was not good times.  I was sad.  For a bit.  I roasted a little over 20 more minutes, until my birdie was up to temp (165 in the thigh).  At this point, I took it out of the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes while I worked on the cucumber salad.

That’s right, cucumber salad.  The ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/4 c toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • pinch of sugar

This goes together fast – even faster if you use a mandolin.  Now, if I’d followed the instructions in the book, not so much.  But let’s not tell, okay?  🙂

I did start out well enough, toasting my sesame seeds over a nice low heat for about 5 minutes in my nonstick pan (there was plenty of moving them around).  I did do the half-peel on the cucumber and then went to town on the mandolin to get even slices.  I even mixed the remaining ingredients to make my dressing.  What I didn’t do was individually press each cucumber piece into the dressing so it was evenly coated.  Nope, I tossed it all in a covered container and shook it around.  Classy.

Back to my bird.  First, the good news.  The skin came up off the bottom and was crisp and awesome.  That’s what’s resting on my finished bird picture.

Now for the awesome news.  This bird was moist.  Even the breast.  Yes, 20 minutes of no-skin baked breast was the moistest chicken you ever wanted to eat.  And the flavor?  The tea imparts a legitimate smoke that makes you believe this has been lightly smoked.  The citrus and spice washes over every bite and make for very happy mouth moments.  Yes, this took prep a few days beforehand, but once you eat this, you’d be willing to prep for months on end to taste this again.  But the good news is that it isn’t months, it’s more like 30 minutes spread out over 2 days to get this awesome started.


3 comments on “tea-brined five-spice roast chicken with spicy sesame cucumber

  1. Pingback: zuni roast chicken « foodie mcfooderson

  2. Pingback: bon appétit’s roast chicken « foodie mcfooderson

  3. Pingback: steven raichlen’s asian roast chicken from the big flavor cookbook « foodie mcfooderson

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2012 by in cookbooks, roasted chicken and tagged , , , , .

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