Friday, July 6, 2012

Smoked Grilled Chicken with Bourbon Peach Glaze: First, The Brine

By the time our big family BBQ rolls around tomorrow, I intend to be lolling on the patio with a glass of Amy's and Janey's Sangria in my hand. I'll post that too, soon. That's my intention, although it probably won't actually happen until everyone has been totally stuffed. Usually I'm up half the night before the party, tending briskets in the smoker, but this year's smaller group will feast on juicy, plump smoked  and grilled chicken glistening with peach bourbon glaze. It's a big plus for me or for any party because you can brine them one day, smoke the next, chill and grill and glaze the day of the party. If you don't have a smoker, you can smoke-grill the chicken all in one shot.

Brining is the best way I know to assure your smoked and / or grilled meat and poultry stay moist during the cooking process. Plus, they are perfectly seasoned throughout. When you smoke food, the salt and sugar from the brine, when dry on the surface, allow the smoke to stick to the skin and meat.

The boiling brine actually smells good enough to eat.
 But don't.
I am a BIG  fan of Michael Ruhlman's tips on brining and I use his basic 5% brine for just about everything that goes into the smoker. I do switch up the flavor profile and add my own seasonings. Use a good digital kitchen scale to weigh the Morton's kosher salt  and go metric for the water.  You can measure it all, but it's not as accurate as compounding a recipe by weight. The honey-lemon flavor in the brine melds perfectly with the bourbon and peaches in the glaze. Sooo delicious. Bet there won't be any leftovers.

I currently have about 9 pounds of chicken parts soaking in this brine concoction overnight right now and will smoke them after they get to dry out a bit and form a pellicle. More on that in another post. Let's just get to the brining. You see in the picture that the whole deal is in a 2.5 gallon zip top bag resting in a big bowl in the fridge. The chicken parts will stay in there about 10-12 hours, depending on when my caffeine kicks in and I set up my smoker.
A savory beauty bath for chicken before grilling or smoking.

Here's how to make your brine. You can probably get up to about 10 pounds of chicken into this remarkable stuff. You can use any type of UN-iodized plain salt if you are weighing. Just stick to the 200 g.

Honey Lemon Smoked Chicken Brine

4 liters of water
200 g. Morton's Kosher salt
Zest of one large lemon in long strips (use a veg. peeler)
5 big garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/3 cup honey
10 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Mix everything in a big pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Let cool to room temperature, and then chill. Pour the cold brine over the chicken in a big bag, or in a non-reactive bowl. Weigh the chicken down with a heavy plate  if you are using a bowl so it stays submerged. Place the whole kaboodle in the fridge and let it soak for 8 -12 hours before grilling or smoking.

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