Friday, October 9, 2009

Ruuude Chicken (p. 24)

Welcome to the wonderful world of brining! While I'm sure I've eaten brined food in the past (it seems like something my dad would do, and he's cooked a lot of awesome meals for me in the past), it's my first time doing it myself. It seems pretty easy on paper- 2 gallons of water, salt, sugar, and spices. In real life...well, it was pretty easy there, too. The only problem I had was that I didn't have a pot, bucket, or any kind of container that could hold 2 gallons of water. One of those things I probably should have checked before I went out shopping. Oh well, I made it work (yes, I just watched Project Runway. My wife likes it. Shut up). Anyway, I went to buy a free range, organic chicken like Ray's recipe told me to, but that business was, like, $13 for a 4 pound bird at Trader Joe's. I won't be getting paid from the new job for two weeks, so I decided I could do better at Ralph's. Now, for those of you not from California, Ralph's is a big supermarket. Think Kroger if you're in the South (same parent company) or Hy-Vee in the Midwest. I'm sure other parts of the country have supermarkets, too. Anyway, you would expect your supermarket to have more than 2 whole chickens for sale in the whole store. If you were me, you would be wrong. Ralph's had 2 three pound fryers in the produce section and not even anything frozen. I even asked a person if there was some place I wasn't looking (if you know me, you know this is a big deal for me). Nope. I settled for the 3 pounder, grumbling all the way (though for $5, it's hard to argue with the price). Just so Ralph's doesn't look terrible, I did save a fortune on cloves by buying them in the Mexican bagged spice aisle instead of the spice jar aisle. $10 for a jar, 69 cents for a bag with about the same amount. But I digress.

Using the smaller bird, I was content to make less brine. I filled my stock pot up with 1.75 gallons of water and cut the spices by the same ratio (maths!). Then I put the chicken in and watched even more water flow out of the pot. Oh well, at least the mixture was the right amounts. I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight, because, as the recipe says, "The greatest talent of a chicken is to unleash death if not kept at the proper low temperatures prior to cooking."
This is another hilariously written recipe. All of Ray's entries in the books are written in a very colorful stream of consciousness that can make it hard to actually follow the recipe, but makes it much more entertaining to read. I guess that's so if the recipes turn out terrible, you at least feel like you got your money's worth. Plus, if you're going to make a cookbook based on a webcomic, it makes sense to make it funny. Thankfully, this one didn't turn out terrible.
The meat was nice and moist and stayed that way for three days in the fridge. That's no small feat; chicken has a real tendency to dry out in the fridge and just be horrible a day or two later. I even enjoyed the skin, even if the recipe says it's, "hella bad for you," and, "might not be so rad." I wouldn't call it "rad," exactly, but it was certainly edible. Still, the dish suffered from one critical flaw- it was chicken. I mentioned it with the Beer Can Chicken, but I have yet to find a chicken recipe that ended up tasting like anything other than chicken. Not that that's a bad thing, really, it's just that you always know what to expect with chicken, you can't be surprised. Maybe that's ok for some people, but I like a little mystery on a menu. I like to taste something I've never tasted before, or at least something I have tasted presented in a way that catches me off guard. I can't imagine ordering chicken at a fancy restaurant because there's really no way it will blow my mind. I can't picture anything that Emerils or Batalis of the world could do with a chicken that would make it taste that different from what I do in my apartment. Maybe Wylie Dufresne and the molecular gastronomists could do something different, but to me, chicken is a "white bread" white meat. The difference between fried, grilled, and baked chicken is really just a matter of texture. Get past the outer layer and it's plain old poultry. I'd love for someone to prove me wrong. Consider that a challenge.



  1. Thanks for the props. I agree. The taste of different chicken recipes is the spice on the skin, the type of fat used and (God forbid) having to more heavily spice skinless chicken. We have a frequent argument at our house because I like chicken to be well-enough cooked for it to easily come off the bone. A difficult task to maintain juiciness. I guess KFC has it right with pressure frying.

    I think you would love my grilled spatchcocked chicken with basil pesto pushed under the skin prior to cooking. It has never disappointed.

  2. this is a really interesting project, thanks for making every recipe so i don't have to!