Roast Chicken Project #6 - Feta Brined Roast Chicken
Welcome to the halfway point of the Roast Chicken Project! We've had classic versions of roast chicken, both Julia's and Judy's, a lazy version, a time saving cast iron version, and an aromatic, milk-bathed version. And in this most recent RCP installment, I've continued the chicken in dairy trend from last month and progressed to soaking my chicken in actual cheese!
Well, sort of.
This roast chicken is my very first brined bird! I mean, I've brined chicken pieces in buttermilk before before frying, but I've never brined a whole bird before roasting. Everything I've read about brining always seemed like way too much work and mess for a debatable payoff, with some devotees claiming brining is the only way to get a juicy bird, and others claiming it's the best way to ensure your poultry comes out tasting like a sponge. No thank you.
But, feta brining is something I'd heard about that intrigued me, if only because I absolutely adore feta above almost all other cheeses, and because I first encountered the idea from one of my favorite restaurants in SF, where I had only never tried the chicken because they insist on serving it with fennel (it's ok, they make lamb). I thought maybe it would be like combining the benefits of a buttermilk brine with the saltiness of a dry brine. Plus, this method didn't call for a ton of aromatics and spices, only a hunk of feta and some water. Seemed easy!
So, I whizzed up some feta and water in a blender, added some extra bonus brine from the feta container, and plopped my chicken in to relax overnight. Then I shoved a lemon and some fresh oregano in the cavity, rubbed it with some more oregano, lemon zest, and salt and pepper, and roasted it.
And the result was by far my favorite chicken I've made so far for this project, and one I'm going to be looking for any excuse to make, aka, "Oops why did I buy so much feta, whatever will I do with it?"
I completely forgot to baste it, but it turned out beautifully burnished and crispy anyway, with succulent meat imbued with lemon and oregano. I have to admit I'm not sure if the brining added any real contribution to the final result, but it definitely didn't taste spongy, so yay? I also didn't really notice any feta flavor in the chicken, but that's what the sauce is for!
Definitely put this one in the "win" column.
And by the way, if you look at this recipe and decide you don't want to bother with the sauce, let me tell you that is a terrible idea because 1) it takes two seconds and 2) I would honestly drink it by the bowlful, it was that good.
Feta Brined Roast Chicken
Adapted from Melissa Clark.
- 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (plus 1/4 cup feta brine, if using a brined feta)
- 3 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- One 3.5 lb whole chicken
- 2 tbs pepper
- a few handfuls fresh oregano
- 2 large lemons
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large bunch peppery greens, such as arugula
- In a blender, puree 2 oz feta, 2 tsp salt, and 4 cups of water in a blender, and add the feta brine if using.
- In a large bowl or brining bag, submerge the chicken in the brine, cover, and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours (my chicken wasn't completely submerged in the bowl, so I flipped it halfway through brining time).
- When ready to roast, remove chicken from brine, pat dry, and bring to room temperature for 1 hour. Discard the brine. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- After 1 hour, in a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, 2 tbs chopped oregano, and the zest of both lemons. Spread over chicken and massage into the bird. Halve the lemons and place 3 halves into the cavity of the chicken with remaining oregano. Tie the legs together.
- Preheat a heavy skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and heat until it is just smoking. Place the chicken, breast side up, in the hot pan (it should sizzle!) and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast for 50-60 minutes.
- Remove chicken from oven. Remove the lemons from the cavity and carefully tip the chicken to drain the juices into the pan. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest, at least 10 minutes. Stir the remaining feta into the hot juices in the pan whisk into a sauce.
- Toss the greens with a bit of the sauce, then carve the chicken and serve with the greens and remaining sauce.