I know, you’re thinking, “Pink lemonade with chicken? What??!!” Bear with me while I explain.
I love roasted chicken; I really think a well caramelized, tender, juicy roasted chicken with some simple herbed potatoes and veggies is the perfect home-cooked meal. I particularly love the flavor that brining the chicken imparts to the meat. It brings so much flavor and moistness to the breast meat, so I try to brine regularly and not just save that technique for holidays.
All brining takes for chicken is about one day’s forethought and you will have the juiciest, most tender moist and well-seasoned bird you’ve ever made. If you’re unfamiliar with brining, it’s essentially marinating protein in a solution of liquid, a large volume of salt, herbs and flavorings, acid, and sugar for at least 24 hours prior to cooking. An important step in the brining process is allowing the protein, in this case the whole chicken, to air dry after you remove it from the brine for at least 8 hours prior to roasting. This way, your chicken won’t steam in the oven but will brown and roast beautifully. I use a limitless combination of juices, water, salty and sweet elements to flavor my brine depending on my mood and my protein of choice.
Pink lemonade chicken came about because I took my seven year-old daughter to the store with me. She was thirsty and grabbed a container of pink lemonade. After about two drinks, she thought it was too sweet and didn’t want to finish it. When we got home and unpacked our weekly haul from the market, I came across the almost-full bottle and thought I’d try it for an element of the chicken brine. It’s not as crazy as it sounds in that one of my regular brines for chicken is mostly salt, water, lemons and honey. So, the pink lemonade covered most of that and added a nice color to the brine that I was hoping would caramelize the chicken skin beautifully when roasting. It came out gorgeous! I hope you’ll try this technique and enjoy the best, roasted chicken you’ve ever had! Go for the lemonade, or try orange juice, apple juice, or even pineapple juice to create a tasty and incredibly moist poultry dish. My main point is think broadly about your brining options and not to limit yourself to traditional choices. Go big and get creative!