Now that finals, moving out, graduation, and that whole driving cross-country thing are over with, I can finally get back to this food blog thing. What I’m most disappointed about is that I’ve lost my eating audience. That and I no longer have access to a nice camera so I’ve made it a point to move back to my iPad camera. Goodbye professional-looking pictures, it’s been fun.
I really could only do one last meal before finals since finals week is all about me trying to get rid of food so we don’t have to throw everything away. So what did we decide to make? Cider can chicken! This time I could use a whole chicken as opposed to the original. Which is preferable since I can get some nice, crispy chicken skin.
So what do we do first with a whole bird? We brine it! I never brine anything because I cannot for the life of me plan that far ahead. Which is disappointing because I have this wonderful carnitas recipe. But it requires a three day brine. Oof. But in that off chance that I know what I want to make (at least) a day before hand, I can impulsively run to the store to get everything I need for brining. So semi-planning ahead is about as organized as I an get. Whatever.
A brine, in it’s simplicity, is a super-saturated salt solution. In non-science terms? It’s water with a ton of salt dissolved in it. There’s actually a specific concentration of salt required for it to be considered a brine, but I doubt anyone actually pays attention to that. For the sheer purpose of knowing useless information, I will tell you that a solution with >5% salt is considered a brine. Good to know.
In cooking, brines are used to flavor or preserve foods. Typically brining meat add flavor as it permeates the skin and goes into the actual meat part. It’s essentially just a really salty marinade. For this brine, I used sugar, sage, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, and bay leaves in addition to my salt for flavoring the chicken. As for the liquid, brines almost exclusively use only water, but that’s boring. How to spice it up a little but? Some cider in addition to the water! This way I can get some of the cider flavor into the chicken better.
Let it sit in the brine overnight. It can be made like an hour ahead of time, but then you’re not giving the chicken enough time to absorb all that briny goodness. Plus at that point it’s a lot of extra effort for very little payout.
After it’s done brining, take out the chicken and pat the skin dry. If the skin’s not dry it won’t crisp up well and it turns out rubbery and weird. That’s just so disappointing to not have crispy chicken skin. I took out the bay leaves too and put them in the pan to flavor the liquid that’s going on the bottom of the pan.
Once you’ve dried the skin a little bit, the skin needs to be separated from the meat. Why? So you can put butter in there. It may seem gross (or not, it’s different for everybody), but you can use your fingers to kind of push the skin away from the meat. It’s pretty easy and you can go as far down the chicken as you want, it’s really up to you. But this is just another way to get more flavor into the chicken.
As for what goes between the skin and the meat, mix together some margarine (or butter if you don’t need to avoid lactose), sage, rosemary, and thyme. I don’t want any salt here because I just brined the chicken in salt water. If I’m not careful I will oversalt the entire chicken and that would be such a waste.
Before we can put the butter in the little skin crevice we’ve just created, it’s best to put the can of cider into the chicken (I’ve been pondering a way to explain this that doesn’t end in innuendo. It’s not working). Just like stuffing a chicken or turkey with a nice cornbread stuffing, this is stuffing the bird with a cider can. I pour out half the liquid (save it because we’re about to use it) and then place the chicken on top of the can and let it slide into place. If you’re lucky, it’ll stand up pretty well on it’s own. Mine didn’t. It’s very front heavy apparently.
Anyway, now we’ve got our own little chicken stand that will help keep the inside of the chicken…. moist.
So, now you can stuff the butter between the skin and the meat and kind of smear it around to get good coverage. It doesn’t need to be even since the butter’s going to melt anyway. After that we need to put some liquid on the bottom of the pan to help keep the outside moist as well. I used some of the brine liquid since it’s already nice and seasoned and it’d be a waste to throw it all away anyway and the cider I just reserved.
I was already serving this with a couple other things, but I suggest throwing in some vegetables in the bottom of the pan and turn this into a sort-of one pan meal. I would suggest some potato, onion, carrot, parsnip, and, if they’re in season, apple.
It’s almost ready to go into the oven. I mixed a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper together and brushed this on the outside of the chicken. All for the skin’s sake obviously. It doesn’t really have much other purpose than to get a good color on the chicken.
I put this chicken into a 325˚F, uncovered, for an hour and then I covered it with foil. Covered, I roasted this baby for another 2 hours until it was cooked all the way through (remember, you have to take it’s temperature at the leg where it’s most likely to be undercooked).
Take it out and you have a nice, whole chicken to serve to people. I just carved the chicken and poured a bit of the liquid at the bottom over the top of it. But if you want, you can throw it in a saucepan with a little bit of cornstarch and make a nice cider gravy to pour over the top of it as well.
Cider Can Whole Chicken
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Inactive time: 1 – 24 hrs
- 5 lb chicken
- ¹⁄3 cup salt
- 1 ½ tbs dried sage
- 1 tbs dried rosemary
- 1 tbs dried thyme
- 1 tbs black peppercorns
- 1 tbs white sugar
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups hard cider
- 5 ½ cups water
Cider Can Chicken
- ½ stick margarine (4 tbs), softened
- 1 tbs dried rosemary
- 1 tbs sage
- 1 tbs thyme
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs pepper
- 1 can hard cider
- 2 cup brine
- 4 bay leaves from brine
- In a pot large enough to hold chicken, add all ingredients for the brine above
- Add chicken to brine, add water if the chicken isn’t completely covered
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight
- Preheat oven to 325˚F
- Take chicken out and pat dry
- Mix together butter, rosemary, sage, and thyme
- Reserve half the cider in the can
- Place the chicken on top of the can until it can stand on its own in a baking dish
- Rub butter between the meat and skin of the chicken until all of it is used
- Mix together olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Brush the chicken skin with olive oil mixture
- Pour in the reserved cider in the dish
- Add in two cups of the brine and the bay leaves
- Roast for 1 hour
- Cover chicken with foil so the skin does not burn
- Roast for another 2 hours