Best-Ever Brine and Comparing Racy Zins

RotisChixPlateBrining is a technique we use a fair amount, mostly for poultry, to keep it moist and flavor-infused regardless of how we’ll be cooking it.  This particular brine idea is taken from Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc” cookbook.  We tried out his fried chicken recipe, which started with brining.  The chicken was magnificent, but it was also messy and difficult to prepare.  We tried it several more times and eventually just figured that it was more work than it was worth, but we had learned something.

For the most part, we use the brine for a rotisserie chicken, but we’ve also done it with a turkey breast and chicken breasts to put into salads.


2 gallons water

5 lemons, halved

1 ½ cups kosher salt

¼ cup green peppercorns

1 head garlic, halved at equator

24 bay leaves

½ cup honey

4 cups fresh Italian parsley

¼ cup fresh thyme

3 large rosemary twigs

After boiling the ingredients together enough for the salt to dissolve and the honey to melt (about 2 minutes), we usually cool the brine overnight.  Getting up relatively early in the morning will also serve, but the main point is that you don’t want the chicken cooking in the brine, so it has to be cool.  I think about five hours (covered, in the fridge) is as much as you want to leave in the chicken for, which is plenty to get the flavor infusion, but won’t risk getting it too salty.

On this particular occasion, we did a rotisserie chicken for a simple Friday evening dinner with friends (along with some scalloped potatoes and roasted asparagus).  All I did with the chicken before cooking it was rub it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little herbs de Provence.  I stuffed it with another halved lemon and a few more twigs of rosemary, then put it on the rotisserie on medium-low for just under 2 hours.

We used the Tyler Florence potato recipe because it’s simple and delicious (and we’ve used it before).  It has a nice kick to it from the garlic.  We wanted to add another dimension to the chicken, so we dreamed up a mushroom-leek confit.


8 oz white button mushrooms

2 large leeks, sliced lengthwise into thin strips

½ stick butter

2-3 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken bouillon

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dry white wine

The Rocket Scientist sort of made this up as she went along.  She started by browning mushrooms just until there was a bit of crust on them and then added in the leeks.  When they started to brown, she splashed in the wine to deglaze.  She then whisked in the flour and stirred for minute or two to get everything coated.  She then poured in the chicken bouillon and Worcestershire sauce and simmered the whole thing until the leeks were tender but still had texture, reducing a bit of the liquid out of the mixture.

ParmThymeWe had made some parm-thyme crackers as a little amuse, and the friends, Chad and Cathy, had brought a nice appetizer of chevre-stuffed endive, so we opened a 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. “Ode to Lulu” Rosé, which went nicely with both.

One of the major reasons for having the food be relatively simple was that the feature of the evening was the wine.  The friends admitted to being huge Zinfandel fans, so we wanted to open a really nice bottle.  We were mulling over either Martinelli’s Velluntini Ranch (which I prefer) or Gisuseppe & Luisa (which Gretchyn likes better), and came to the realization that we’d never tasted them side-by-side—so of course, we decided to pour them both.

Intense, silky, and rich.  Huge flavors of dark chocolate, dark and jammy fruits, and brambly spices.  Extremely well-balanced.  Just beautiful.  Alcohol content (16.1%) not in evidence. 94 pts.

MartinelliSidebySide2009 Martinelli Zinfandel Giuseppe & Luisa

Aggressive, sexy, lush, and in-your-face.  Full-bodied, way-out-in-front fruit of sweet blackberry and raspberry, with excellent floral notes and ripe tannins.  You can feel the heat (16.5%), but it’s not distracting.  92 pts.

CorksThis is a perfect example of how you can have two great wines from the same grape in radically different styles.  The Velluntini Ranch is all beauty and grace and the Giuseppe & Luisa is that girl you can’t stop thinking about that you’d never bring home to mom.  My style preference is the grace of the Velluntini Ranch, but I’m happy to drink the G & L any time.  Both are powerful efforts.  The G&L was the right pairing for dessert, for which we made Thomas Keller’s Dark Chocolate Bouchons, with some fresh blackberries and homemade whipped cream.


About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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