Cider-Brined Chicken with Red Rice, Acorn Squash, Kale

Cider Brined Chicken1

Cider-Brined Chicken with Red Rice, Acorn Squash, Kale

2 cup apple cider (Honeycrisp, if available)
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
2 cloves garlic, crushed, skin on
¼ cup salt
2 cup ice

1 whole chicken, cut in eight pieces
4 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tbs. salt
½ medium onion sliced
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and cut in eighths

½ medium yellow onion, diced
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups red rice

1 acorn squash, peeled, seeds removed, large chunks
¼ cup canola oil
2 tsp. Penzey’s Old World Seasoning (or seasoned salt)

1 lb kale, ribs removed, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
Zest of half a lemon
1 tsp salt

To make the brine, bring cider to a boil with cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes then remove from heat and add ice. Adjust salt or water to yield a brine which tastes as salty as ocean water. Place chicken in 1 gallon freezer bag or large bowl and cover with brine. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours.

To bake chicken, heat oven to 475 degrees. Remove chicken from brine and dry with paper towel. Combine salt and oregano. Cut cold butter into eight pieces and roll each piece in oregano mixture, then place under the skin of each piece of chicken. Place chicken in pan just large enough to accommodate all pieces in one layer, skin side up. Tuck onion and apples around chicken pieces. Bake for 30 minutes then turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Toss acorn squash pieces in oil and spread on baking sheet in one layer, dust with seasoning. Place in oven with chicken. Heat one tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, but not browned. Add rice and cook for an additional two minutes, stirring frequently to coat. Add broth and bring to boil. Then cover and reduce to simmer, continue to cook until tender, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, but not browned, and lemon zest, salt and kale. Toss frequently until wilted, just 2 minutes.

When the chicken has reached 160 degrees, approximately one hour, remove from pan and set aside covered for ten minutes. As chicken rests, stir the squash into the pan juices and allow to soak in the warm oven. When ready to serve, toss kale, rice, and squash together in a large bowl, then fill a platter with the mixture and top with the chicken. Serve family-style.

Cider Brined Chicken

We elected to add a bit of mulled cranberries (recipe at the bottom of our Autumn post) to the meal which added a nice, tart counter-point to the sweet squash, but this dish can be served without. Though really more of a “autumn” dish based on flavors and seasonal availability of the ingredients, we enjoyed this in the still chilly days of early spring.

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Welcoming Autumn

Seasonality is a foundational idea in Great Lakes cuisine. The seasonal cycles in the region are pronounced and the agricultural traditions respond accordingly. The traditions of preservation, so important to Great lakes cuisine, is clearly derived from the seasonality. Some of the traditional meals also fall in line with the turn of the seasons. As summer fades into the golds of autumn, apples are one of the many fruits which reach full harvest. Here we use our bounty of apples in a variety of ways to add a bit of flavor to our smoked turkey.
 Turkey Dinner1
Apple-Glazed Smoked Turkey
1 Turkey Breast (Preferably bone-in, skin on)
Prepare brine:
4 cups apple juice
1 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups ice (ice will chill brine and bring to proper salt level.  I prefer an “ocean water” level of salt, rather than some more heavily salted brine recipes.)
Place turkey in large non-reactive container, just large enough to hold it. Cover with brine and allow to marinate at least 4 hours, but no more than 8 hours.
Prepare smoker with applewood chips to 250 degrees. Place turkey on the smoker for 3 hours or until internal temperature of 160 degrees.
While the turkey smokes, prepare the glaze:
1 cup apple juice
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Over medium-low heat in a sauce-pan, reduce by half, then remove seasonings.
Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, reduce over low heat until a thick syrup.
Brush Turkey with glaze every ten minutes for the final 30 minutes of cooking.
Remove turkey from smoker and allow to rest for ten to twenty minutes before carving.
 Turkey Dinner
We served this with our mulled cranberry sauce (recipe below), pureed roasted sweet potatoes, and grilled zucchini dressed with winter savory leaves and flowers. Winter savory flowers have a mild, peppery finish which adds a nice flavor, in addition to the visual appeal.
Mulled Cranberry Sauce
It is worth noting, the apple variety we used in the cranberry sauce was a Zestar, a cultivar more recently developed by the folks at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, the same genius minds that brought us the Honeycrisp. You can use any variety well suited to applesauce.
1 lb fresh cranberries
1 apple grated (skin on, cored)
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow the sauce to thicken, about 20 minutes. The majority of the cranberries will begin to burst and the natural pectin will thicken the sauce as it cools.  Allow sauce to cool overnight or at least 8 hours. Taste for flavor. Add maple syrup to reach desired sweetness.