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My Brine Hurts

When you mention brine in Australia, people think you’re either talking about your friend Brian, or your brain. It’s confusing, especially if you say some thing like “I got chicken in the brine.” Go on, say it out loud with an Australian accent.

Here in Catalunya, when you try to explain about brine, the locals look at you as if to say “why are you bothering me with this mumbo jumbo, just cook the damn chicken.” Fair enough. So what is brine? Brine is a wet cure comprising of salt, sugar, water and whatever other flavours you want to add. The idea is that you submerge a cut of meat, usually chicken or pork, in the salty sweet solution for 12 to 24 hours and let the cure penetrate and season it. It’s basically the same process as making bacon or ham. And the “baconification” of things can only be good.

We work with a basic ratio of:

4 litres of cold water

3/4 cup of salt

2/3 cup of sugar

We then add a whole head of garlic, cut sideways and whatever herbs and spices compliment the meat and the recipe.

We brine a lot here in Caravelle. For pork, we add fennel seeds, peppercorns and sage, amongst other things, but for chicken, the secret is definitely in the citrus. For our first birthday celebrations a few years back, we hosted a pop up featuring Bar Isabel from Toronto. One of their signature dishes on the evening was a killer fried chicken. Chef de cuisine at the time, Brandon Olsen, who is a beast in the kitchen (and apparently a deft and tender lover), shared with me the master brine recipe he had learnt from his days with Thomas Keller. Now, because Keller can charge 50 bucks for a chicken, he uses everything from wild honey to pixie vagina milk in his brine. But us mere mortals need to knock together something cheap and tasty. If you keep it simple you’ll be able to impart a deep seasoning that will bring out the flavours of the dish and make you want to chew the sticky bits right off the bone (btw, this article can also be used as an NLP seduction manual), especially with pork chops. I promise that once you try this with chicken or pork, you’ll never look back.

Here’s our go-to chicken brine recipe

4 litres of cold water

3/4 cup of salt

2/3 cup of sugar

3 lemons, cut, zested and crushed into the liquid

5 bay leaves

8 sage leaves

2 sticks of rosemary

Dissolve the salt and sugar into the water, and then bring to the boil. Cool to 3 degrees celsius, then add the rest of the ingredients. Place a jointed chicken into the solution and leave in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the thickness and weight. Obviously the bigger it is, the longer (NLP again, you feeling a touch frisky yet?) you need to leave it.

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