Brining is the secret to cooking a good chook. It helps to hold in moisture, and also helps to keep meat tender.
I use a 5% salt solution when I’m brining chicken overnight, or 10% if I want to brine the chicken in a couple of hours.
Capsicums are cheap at the moment and so I’m serving this chicken with some simple braised peppers. These are also delicious by themselves, with toast!
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 large chicken, butterflied
For the brine
2 litres water
50g table salt
1 bunch thyme
For roasting the chook
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Flake salt and pepper to taste
For the braised peppers
2 brown onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 large red capsicums, sliced
1/2 cup picked basil
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Flake salt and pepper to taste
To make the brine, I put my salt and 500ml of water in a saucepan on the stove and bring it up to a boil or just warm enough to dissolve all your salt. I take it off the heat, throw in my thyme then the rest of the water. It’s good if this water is cold, you don’t want to put your chicken into hot brine or it will start to cook.
Cool your brine down, you can put it in the fridge if it’s still warm. Once that’s done, immerse your chicken in it. The chicken needs to be fully covered by the liquid, it can be a bit of a struggle finding a container to fit, but if some of the meat doesn’t get brined it will cook differently to the rest of the bird. Leave the chicken in the salt solution overnight, or for around 12 hours in the fridge.
Take your chicken out of your brine solution and pat it dry. The dryer you can get the skin of the chicken the more it will crisp up in the oven or on the barbecue. If your cooking it in an oven, preheat it to 220°C.
Rub your chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon and oregano. I add in my squeezed lemons to my roasting dish too and give them another squeeze over the chook with tongs when it comes out of the oven. Roast for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. If cooking over a barbecue, grill over a medium to high flame until cooked through, depending on your barbecue it will probably take 25-35 minutes.
And now for the braised peppers.
Start by cutting your capsicums into strips. I do this by cutting off each cheek of capsicum into a single piece and then cutting that into strips that are about the width of a finger. You want to colour the skins of the capsicum, you can either do this in a pan with a little oil or in the oven, under a grill. You don’t want them to be black, rather just starting to brown and blister.
Once you’ve done that set them to one side and start browning your onions in a pan or saucepan big enough to fit the peppers as well. Cook out your onions with a little olive oil and pinch of salt until they are truly caramel brown and almost have the consistency of a jam. Add your garlic in after this, stir it around the pan for around 30 seconds before adding in your capsicums. You want to cook out your capsicums until they are also at a jam-like consistency, you might need to add a little water to the pan if they start sticking – it should take around half an hour and you should be cooking of a medium-low flame, the mix should be at a light simmer. Once this is done, take off the heat and cool before seasoning. Season with salt, pepper, extra olive oil and sherry vinegar. Serve and room temperature, stirring through your basil just as you’re ready to serve.