Sriracha-brined chicken and oil poached tomatoes

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the rooster sauce.  At least, that would be my goal.

Like most people who pray at the altar of spicy food, my favorite edible deity is srircha sauce, or rooster sauce as it’s sometimes called (check out the bottle).  It is amazing, not just because it’s hot—and it’s hot—but because it’s packed with flavor.  I love hot sauce (have you tried making it?) but the thick, complex taste of sriracha is a perfect accompaniment to a lot of things, like pasta sauce.  It is also, I’ve discovered, an excellent addition to a meat brine.

Josh is a big fan of brining for two main reasons: 1) it gives poultry a much better flavor and more moisture and 2) he likes to do science to things and brining is really easy science.  As I explained in the brining pork ribs post,

If you don’t know, brining is the process of soaking meat in a salt solution that’s generally spiked with herbs, spices and other flavorings, for a few hours or overnight.  It tenderizes, moistens and flavors meat, making it really great for drier cuts of pork and poultry, in particular.

A really complicated brine might have lots of herbs, fruit peels, spices, any number of things.  The most basic brine you can do is salt and water.  That’s it.  That alone will give you extremely tender, though not really ‘flavored’ meat.  This brine here is one step above that.  It’s salt and water and then as much sriracha as you feel comfortable.  If you’re worried that the chicken will end up tasting super hot, as if you’ve just dumped a bunch of rooster sauce on it, don’t.  A bit of the heat comes through, yes, but mostly what you get is the delicious sriracha flavor.

Then you just cook the chicken as desired.  I was going to roast this one, but at the last minute decided against it, ended up cutting out the backbone and cooked it brick-chicken style in the oven.  Actually I used a cast iron pan, since I didn’t have a brick.  Not one that isn’t currently attached to a wall, anyway.  So I guess this is “cast iron pan-style.”

On the side, I just served a simple salad of olive oil poached tomatoes and fresh avocado chunks and served the whole thing over a mixed lettuce salad.  How’s that for effortless chic?

Sriracha-brined chicken

3-4 pound whole chicken, cleaned and prepared
1.5 cup kosher salt
1/2 gallon of water + 1 gallon
64oz chicken stock (or two regular sized boxes)
1/2-3/4 c. sriracha sauce (more if you want hotter)
1 clean garbage bag
1 clean bucket
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried sage

Combine salt, stock and 1/2 gallon of water in a large pan and bring to a boil.  When the salt has dissolved, pour in the other gallon of water.  Let cool.  Add in sriracha sauce and stir thoroughly.

Place the chicken  in the garbage bag and place the bag inside the bucket.  Pour the salt brine solution over the chicken (inside the bag).  Add more water as needed to completely cover the chicken.  Close the bag tightly and place in a cool location overnight or up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, pull the chicken out of the brine; throw the solution away.  Gently rinse the chicken and pat it dry thoroughly.  Cook as desired.  To cook it as I did:

Preheat oven to 375.  Cut out the backbone.  This will help the chicken lay flat.  Sprinkle the chicken with the pepper and sage all over the outside and inside.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a  large cast-iron pan over high heat.  Place chicken breast-side down in pan, place another cast iron pan (spray the bottom with baking spray) or a tinfoil wrapped brick on top and sear well, about 5-7 minutes.  Move the pan(s)/brick into the oven and cook until the juices of the chicken run clear, about 30 minutes.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Cut and serve.

Olive oil poached tomato and avocado salad

1 c. olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a sauce pan and heat over medium high flame.  Add in tomatoes (carefully).  Let cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the skins start to crack.  Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon, and save the now slightly-tomato-y olive oil for something else later.
Cut avocado into chunks.  Toss with tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve.

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