Psycho Cooker

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Buttermilk-Brined Chicken


This is a re-figuring of Smitten Kitchen’s rendition of Nigella Lawson’s buttermilk chicken.  That’s kind of a mouthful, but the chicken is worth the confusion.  This is a simple recipe for succulent and flavorful roast chicken, as long as you are willing to plan things out a bit.  The most difficult step of this dinner is purchasing your ingredients the day before you want to eat.  Sometimes that’s impossible, but I found this to be pretty manageable on a Saturday afternoon, and I was so pleased with my dinner the following night.  When you get home from the grocery store, you mix together a quick buttermilk marinade; the most complicated step to this grating some garlic cloves and whisking.  Your chicken will then bask in the buttermilk mixture for 24-48 hours.  Last, you roast it.  Pretty simple.  Buttermilk has a mild acidity that makes the chicken super tender after soaking in it, unlike the more palpable acidity of lemon juice or vinegar, that would start to break down the chicken if left to sit for that long.


The marinade has a few powerhouse ingredients which give the chicken loads of flavor, in addition to the tangy buttermilk.  I stuck pretty close to Deb Perelman’s (of Smitten Kitchen) flavor profile, but I intensified everything a bit.  She recommended paprika, whole smashed garlic cloves, a little sugar, and lots of black pepper.  I used smoked paprika, and some cayenne for a little heat.  I also grated my garlic cloves on a microplane for a stronger garlicky flavor.  The sugar is a nice touch because it helps the chicken caramelize in the oven.  The garlic flavor was present, but not overly strong, and the slight heat from the cayenne paired nicely with the smokey paprika. I was happy with how it came out, but you might want to skip the cayenne if you are cooking for kids.


I intended to remove the skin from the chicken to save myself from eating all of it; at the urging of my mother, I left the skin on about a third of the chicken.  I don’t know why I listened to her.  The chicken without the skin was very lovely, and had I not known the difference, I probably wouldn’t have missed it.  However, I had the difference staring me in the face from the second I took the chicken out of the oven.  The chicken with the skin was burnished bronze, and the meat underneath skin was far more moist and tender… perfect, really.  So, while the skinless chicken was wonderful, it simply couldn’t compete with the lush meat and caramelized skin of its more attractive sister chicken.  I don’t have a sister, and I’m glad I don’t have that kind of competition in my life.  My recommendation is to either remove all of the skin so you don’t know what your missing,  and feel virtuous for making a healthful choice; or leave the skin on everything, and relish every bite.  If you want to remove the skin, the best way to do this is to pull it off with a paper towel in your hand.  This will create more friction than your hand alone.  You will be able to pull the skin off easily, without it slipping constantly, and feeling like the chicken is playing a prank on you.


I served this delightful chicken with cole slaw (lemon-red wine vinaigrette and loads of fresh dill and parsley), and roasted potatoes.  I recommend roasting the potatoes on the same sheet pan as the chicken, as they will be way more flavorful.  Toss your potatoes in olive oil and the seasonings of your choice; spread out the potatoes on the sheet pan then nestle in the chicken.  You’ll want to toss the potatoes half way through their time in the oven for even cooking.  It’s easiest to remove the chicken to another plate briefly, stir the potatoes, and replace the chicken on the pan before returning everything to the oven.


Buttermilk-Brined Chicken (adapted from everybody)

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
L1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken parts (I used drumsticks and things, but you could use whatever you like best)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Garlic salt or additional kosher salt

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika, cayenne and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.  Turn the chicken occasionally for even distribution of brine, if possible.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil (unless you don’t mind scrubbing the pan later). Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange one the pan (around the potatoes, if you go that route). Sprinkle with additional paprika, black pepper, and garlic salt to taste. Roast for about 35 minutes (about 5 minutes longer if using breasts).  Serve and enjoy.



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