Brined Blackened Chicken

Since last week's food post was slightly *ahem* less than health friendly I thought I'd share something equally delicious but which requires far less time on the treadmill!  It's simple, delicious, and much better for you than mountains of melted cheese :)

Blackened chicken is amazing.  You might look at it and think, "Ew, burned chicken? That's some stank nastiness NOT EVER going in my mouth!"  But here's the thing- it's not the chicken that's blackened, it's the spice rub, and something downright magical happens when you apply high heat to the mix of sugar and spices.  This chicken is juicy, melt in your mouth deliciousness.  The prep seems tough, since you brine it overnight (or at least 8 hours), but it's one of the easiest things you could ever make, especially if you have pre-made spice rub on hand.  Just trust me on this- this is DELICIOUS and EASY!

Side note: Why brine, you ask?  Read this! (it's a PDF, so only click if you have Acrobat Reader or the like).  Also, for gluten free people, check to ensure that your spices are gluten free.  So long as they are then you should be in the clear with this one!

Here's the proof, for you doubters:

Look how moist that is! (click for bigger image)
Great for post-op RNY patients with the pickiest of pouches; tasty for everyone else, too!

Tami's Brined Blackened Chicken
[For best results, brine chicken the night before! instructions below]

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
approx 1/4 cup Tami's Spice Rub (see below)
Kosher salt (for brine)

Night before:
Place chicken breasts in a 2-quart container (glass is best, but plastic is ok).  Dissolve 3/4 cup of coarse Kosher salt (or 1/2 cup of iodized salt, but I can't hold my opinion back here- iodized salt is yuck!) in 4 cups of cold water.  Pour over chicken, and then add more water until chicken is fully submerged and covered by the water.  As long as it's in the brine solution, bacteria won't grow on the chicken.  If it's exposed to air then it will, so make sure the chicken is fully submerged! Weight the meat with a coffee cup or dinner plate if you have to.

Tightly seal container- a lid is best, but if you only have plastic wrap that's ok but it MUST be tightly sealed with no air getting in.  Let's not mess around with salmonella and the likes here, friends!


Tami's Spice Rub 
(makes a big batch; enough to do at least 2 rounds of this chicken.  Reduce / increase as you desire.)
1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup cumin
1/4 cup granulated garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 T kosher salt (less if it's iodized, same if it's sea salt)
2 T onion powder
1 T ground mustard powder
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp coriander

For heat: (optional)

1 tsp chipotle chili powder (more if you like it hot; we don't!)
1 tsp red chili powder / cayenne pepper

All together now!

Mix all ingredients together.  Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container.  I've never let mine go past 4 weeks, so I'm not sure how long it lasts.  When in doubt, adjust the recipe to just be enough as you need for now!

To cook:
1.  Preheat grill pan (or outdoor BBQ if you have one) to high heat.  We're talking Jamie Oliver "full-whack".  I LOVE this pan to the right, and we've used it at least 50 times since we bought it after our wedding!

2.  Remove chicken from brine solution.  Pat COMPLETELY dry with paper towels.

3.  Gently press / massage on the spice rub.  About a tablespoon per side of chicken (so 8 total, or 1/2 cup) should be plenty, but use your discretion.

4.  Place chicken on grill pan.  Cook for two minutes, or until the spice rub is nice and black.  Flip and repeat.

Tip: Notice in the picture how the chicken is arranged- thick parts in the middle, thinner parts toward the outer edges of the pan.  This helps you have fully cooked thick parts without overdone (read: dry ickness) ends!

Notice where the rub fell off the lower right corner piece? The chicken itself isn't burned! Told ya!

5.  If desired, you can place the entire grill pan (if your pan is oven safe) in an oven preheated to 350 F for 5-7 minutes, or until there is no pink left.  Option B, which I do, is this:

To finish cooking, I reduce the heat to medium-low (4 clicks out of 10), cover with tinfoil to trap the steam (use a potholder to pinch around the sides of the pan and seal), and cook for 5 minutes.  I check the chicken, and if it needs more time I go another 3-5 minutes, depending on how pink the thickest piece was at it's thickest part.  I repeat this until the pink is gone, and, voila!- melt in your mouth chicken!

Tip: This batch took ten minutes once the cover was on, so 14 minutes total.  DON'T turn the heat up and try to go faster- you'll overcook the chicken.  Overcooked = dry.  Remember the moist deliciousness in the initial picture?  Patience, friends.  It's totally worth it! 

6.  Super important last step- remove the chicken from the pan when fully cooked and let it cool/rest for AT LEAST 5 minutes, preferably 10.  This redistributes the juices and you are left with super fabulous, moist chicken that really does melt in your mouth.  I wasn't just being cute :)

This chicken is uber versatile- we ate it on it's own with a side of veggies (super delicious broccoli) and quinoa.  You can use this on pizza, over greens with avocado and corn to make a southwestern type salad, over alfredo or other pasta dishes, in a chop salad, alongside roasted veggies and homemade risotta, etc... use your imagination!

Also, I use this spice rub in a variety of ways.  One way is when I make any sort of fried chicken (someday I'll share a recipe!)- I always soak my chicken in buttermilk overnight, and I mix a tablespoon or two of this spice rub in and it's AMAZING. Yum.

You make this and have suggestions don't hesitate to share them!

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