Monday, March 01, 2010

Raspberry Ginger Chicken

We had this last night. It pleased everyone! I altered the original recipe I found to make a sweeter, thicker sauce. Kind of plum-saucy. Just remember that when you brine your chicken, it adds saltiness, so keep this in mind as you salt your dish.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been brined (*see note below regarding brining)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup onion-chopped

1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce--low sodium if you have it
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (use a microplane)
3/4 tsp. crushed rosemary
3-4 Tablespoons brown sugar, depending on taste

cornstarch & cold water--to thicken

Cut chicken into approx. 1 inch pieces--like stir-fry. Sprinkle with pepper. Saute the onion in the olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the chicken and saute until chicken is cooked. I separated my chicken into 2 cast iron saute pans. You don't want to cook that much chicken together or it will steam, not brown & saute. Do two separate batches in one pan if you have to. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Pour over chicken when it's cooked and heat through. Add cornstarch & water mixture to thicken to your liking. Serve with rice.

*Brining chicken*

I'm not going to lie. The chicken we buy these days is pretty bland & not very tender. I don't make ANYTHING with the helpless, hormone-infused, ginormous chicken breasts without brining first. It makes all the difference in the world.

In a large Ziplock bag put

1 cup HOT water and add:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt

Shake to dissolve. Add:

3 cups cold water

Place unfrozen chicken breasts inside bag and seal. Let sit about 2-3 hours. This does make your chicken a bit saltier, so adjust salt in your recipe accordingly. I rinse my chicken well before using.

How a brine works:


Moisture loss is inevitable when you cook any type of muscle fiber. Heat causes raw individual coiled proteins in the fibers to unwind—the technical term is denature—and then join together with one another, resulting in some shrinkage and moisture loss. (By the way, acids, salt, and even air can have the same denaturing effect on proteins as heat.) Normally, meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking. But if you soak the meat in a brine first, you can reduce this moisture loss during cooking to as little as 15 percent, according to Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia.

Brining enhances juiciness in several ways. First of all, muscle fibers simply absorb liquid during the brining period. Some of this liquid gets lost during cooking, but since the meat is in a sense more juicy at the start of cooking, it ends up juicier. We can verify that brined meat and fish absorb liquid by weighing them before and after brining. Brined meats typically weigh six to eight percent more than they did before brining—clear proof of the water uptake.

Another way that brining increases juiciness is by dissolving some proteins. A mild salt solution can actually dissolve some of the proteins in muscle fibers, turning them from solid to liquid.

Of all the processes at work during brining, the most significant is salt's ability to denature proteins. The dissolved salt causes some of the proteins in muscle fibers to unwind and swell. As they unwind, the bonds that had held the protein unit together as a bundle break. Water from the brine binds directly to these proteins, but even more important, water gets trapped between these proteins when the meat cooks and the proteins bind together. Some of this would happen anyway just during cooking, but the brine unwinds more proteins and exposes more bonding sites. As long as you don't overcook the meat, which would cause protein bonds to tighten and squeeze out a lot of the trapped liquid, these natural juices will be retained.


Shauna said...

Tammy, I knew you were a smart cookie, but wowza! I feel like I have just read the personal notecards of Mrs. Julia Child, herself.

I am a horrific cook--and have never cared to learn to like it, but this brining of chicken intrigues me. Must try something new...thanks for the inspiration!

tammy said...

Omiheck!!! OK, just to clarify....I totally cut and pasted the brining definition into my blog post because it explained it so much better than I could have! Do not give me credit for anything that sounds smart!!

Peggy said...

Sorry, Tammy. You really can't stop us from giving you credit for things that sound smart. You convinced us you are a LONG time ago.

And, YUM! I think my kids would really like this. And that's sayin something! I'm going to have to try it very, very soon.

JoMamma said...

I want to cme eat at your house. It looks so good.

i'm erin. said...

why why why cant I be a merryweather? Oh My goodness. I can't even think straight. I feel drunk on your pictures of perfect food...It was too painful to read through the ingredients list. sigh.

a little music said...

Yum. I'm heading out for the seedless raspberry jam today. I want to make this tonight!

We always brine our Thanksgiving turkey in a white cranberry brine (so amazing!), so I'm sold on brining meat. I hadn't really thought of brining plain old chicken. That's really amazing.

You knock my socks off, Merryweather Mama!

Shauna said...

The brining of the chicken was a revelation! And totally easy too! How have I been eating such yucky chicken all these years?! The Raspberry Ginger Chicken (even iwht seeded raspberry jam, as that was all I had) was a hit at my house--except for the 12 year old boy but unless it is hotdogs or chocolate he is unpleaseable, so I don't count him.

Thank you so much for the recipe and the lesson! I'll have bland chicken no longer! :)

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