We made a fantastic dinner tonight, perfect for a fall evening. If it happened to be cold here it would have tasted even better. Here's the recipe: it takes a fair amount of prep work but once everything is in the oven, you're done. This was inspired by Husband's perfect brine recipe and David Waltuck's recipe for Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables and Cider from his Staff Meals cookbook.
Brined and Roasted Chicken:
1 3-3.5 lb whole chicken, backbone cut out and flattened slightly
32 oz low sodium chicken broth (Pacific brand is my favorite)
16 oz cold water
16 oz apple juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
splash or 2 of soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 T dried sage
1/2 good-sized cinnamon stick
To make the brine, heat the chicken broth to a boil, along with the salt, soy sauce, bay leaves, sage and cinnamon stick. While it's heating, fill the sink with several inches of ice water and place a large, clean bowl in it. When the broth mixture is boiling and the salt has dissolved, turn it off, let it sit for 10 minutes, then pour it into the bowl in the sink. Let it cool, and then add the cold water and apple juice. Chill until the brine is 40 degrees (ice cubes instead of water helps to speed this up). Place the brine and the chicken in an extra-large ziploc bag (and then in a large bowl so that all the chicken is covered in brine) and refrigerate for 6 hours.
When it's almost time to pull the chicken out of the 'fridge, take the top rack out of the oven and pre-heat it to 400 degrees. Chop the following vegetables into 1-2 inch pieces, place them on a large baking dish and set aside:
1 large sweet potato, peeled
4 large carrots, peeled
1 of the following: leek, red onion, or yellow onion
6 fingerling potatoes (I found some purple ones today and they looked and tasted great)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled
1 head cauliflower
Take the chicken out of the 'fridge and rinse well with cold water. Dry it and place it on top of the oven rack (lightly grease the rack first). Rub olive oil and paprika into the chicken skin, and slide the rack into the oven. Immediately after doing so, place the vegetable dish under the chicken on the bottom rack of the oven.
Roast everything at 400 degrees until the chicken has an internal temperature of 160-165. Sit the veg once or twice during cooking to make sure everything cooks evenly. Take everything out of the oven and let the chicken rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into eight pieces and serve with the veg on the side.
I wish I'd taken pictures, but it was too good: we served ourselves and ate before I even thought about it. I also had two young "sous chefs" cutting all the veg for me, and I was thinking more about little fingers than I was about the camera at that point of the process. Oh well. You'll have to visualize instead.
A last note on the brine: this brine is really flexible, and can be used for pork roasts and turkey as well as chicken. To use for a turkey, just double the recipe. You can exchange the apple juice for orange juice, cranberry juice, or any combination of the three. You can also change out the spices: some good ideas are star anise, nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, "Provencal" herb mix - you name it. Whatever you would normally season the meat with before cooking can go in the brine instead. I used it with a pork roast last week and it turned out very well. Pork is so lean these days the brine really helps to stop it from drying out in the oven.